Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently sent a letter to voters accompanying a tax refund that essentially was “indistinguishable from a campaign mailer,” according to the state GOP.
So they’ve filed a complaint about his politicization of a refund that is constitutionally required – and comes under a program that Polis and other Democrats, in fact, have repeatedly attacked and tried to kill as recently as a few months ago.
According to the Denver Gazette, the state GOP claims that Polis is violating campaign finance law with his letter.
GOP Chair Kristi Burton Brown called Polis’ move a “political stunt” because of Polis’ letter with the refunds — $750 for individual taxpayers and $1,500 for couples.
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The fact is that Coloradans are getting the money because of their vote adopting, 30 years ago, the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which is in the state constitution and limits government spending increases to the rate of inflation and rate of population increase.
Typically, when the state takes in more money than allowed under TABOR as it has recently, the overage is refunded to taxpayers through mechanisms like property tax reductions and a lowered state income tax rate.
But Polis, and his Democrat majority in the state legislature, decided this year to create a “Colorado CashBack” program that doesn’t reference the constitutional requirement, and sends the money to voters just as the 2022 election season, in which Polis is seeking re-election, is ramping up.
The program is to distribute about $2.7 billion of an anticipated surplus of $3.5 billion, with the rest to be coming to taxpayers in the spring.
Did Polis violate campaign finance law?
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Critics have charged that the move is a “blatant attempt to curry favor with voters, who start returning mail ballots in mid-October,” the report said.
Colorado’s elections are all by mail.
The Gazette reported, “Burton Brown and other Republicans have been crying foul for months over Polis and Democrats taking credit for the refund program after trying to repeal the TABOR provisions that require the state to refund surplus revenue, including with Proposition CC, a failed 2019 statewide ballot measure.”
Burton Brown said, “Jared Polis is blatantly using taxpayer dollars to help himself get re-elected.
Polis’ letter credits the state’s “strong economic growth and our successful work to close special interest tax loopholes” for the refunds, only mentioning in passing “Colorado law.”
He did include in his letter multiple mentions of his name.
The complaint was filed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, and accuses Polis of representing the refunds as if they are part of a special program he set up, not a constitutional requirement.
Heidi Ganahl, Polis’ Republican challenger, said the state funds spent on mailing the checks and letter, estimated at $2.7 million – should be considered a “campaign expenditure” and it should be paid back to the people of Colorado.
“Just two years ago, Jared Polis tried to kill TABOR. I spent almost a year defending TABOR when I chaired No on Prop CC. As governor, I will be honest and transparent about how my administration spends your money,” she said.
A spokesman in the governor’s office defended the blatant promotion of Polis’ name in the refund information.
WND earlier reported that the refunds to Colorado taxpayers are not optional, and certainly not part of the agenda of the Democrats, who have fought TABOR for 30 years and repeatedly have tried to kill it.
“Don’t be fooled when your TABOR refund check hits your mailbox later this month,” Michael Fields of Advance Colorado told the Gazette. “Remember liberal legislators tried to take them away in 2019. Gov. Polis and Democratic lawmakers want you to think it’s some kind of gift from them. But really, this is just an election-year gimmick to try to get your vote.”
In actuality, the constitution would require all of the overage to be returned to taxpayers during the tax filing season in 2023. But heading into the 2022 vote, Democrats designated a couple of billion dollars that would have to be refunded to be sent out just as the 2022 election seasons hits full swing.
The Gazette explained, “Democrats have railed against TABOR for most of its 30-year history, including filing a lawsuit filed in 2011 that was finally abandoned by the Democratic plaintiffs in March when they chose not to appeal a 10th Circuit Court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
But they now “sing a different tune.”
Polis, in fact, has held three press conferences to promote the fact that the money is being returned to taxpayers now.
But just three years ago, Polis and Democratic lawmakers pushed for a ballot measure – Proposition CC – that would have given them permission to keep all the extra money.
The Polis administration also has been second-rate when delivering income tax refunds. Some Colorado taxpayers who filed before the April deadline this year still have not gotten the refunds due them, some four months later.
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