When it comes to taxes, I believe that all residents should pay their fair share. This has not been the policy for decades under Colorado's Republican-led executive and legislative leadership. As a result, our tax system has become one of the most burdensome on middle class and poor taxpayers and one of the best in the nation for rich corporations. Now our state ranks among the lowest in educational spending, in child health and immunizations, and in those expenditures that support our social fabric and maintain our infrastructure like roads, bridges, and schools. I believe that this must stop and that corporations and the mega-rich should pay their fair share. I support the following reform measures:
· Changing the corporate tax system so it does not reward employers for creating substandard jobs and then shipping the profits out of state to avoid our taxes: According to national estimates, over 60% of multi-state corporations operating in Colorado pay no income tax here at all. Our income from corporations has declined by 500% over the past 30 years, while taxes on the rest of us have increased by 200%. To correct this situation, we need new legislation and we need more and better enforcement of our tax laws. As long as corporations are making profits here, they should be paying their fair share here.
· Eliminating the dozens of tax loopholes that benefit only the rich and their corporations while shifting the tax burden to middle class and poor taxpayers and draining the State School Fund: Many of these giveaways are in the form of sales tax exemptions, while others reward commercial developers with infrastructure improvements that are publicly subsidized with sales or property taxes. Why should you and I pay a local improvement tax for sidewalks when a shopping center developer gets them free through tax increment financing, or sales and property tax "incentives"?
· Requiring that new residential, commercial and industrial developments pay for the true cost of growth: We can do this by passing legislation enabling the state to assist local government in accurately assessing the costs of new development and other legislation authorizing and/or mandating that local governments charge impact fees to collect enough money to pay these expenses.
· Supporting a series of constitutional amendments that will reform the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (TABOR) to make it fairer and to make it work for, not against, important state responsibilities, such as education and transportation funding: For example, I would support a constitutional amendment to repeal the provision that prohibits the use of the real estate transfer tax.
Additionally, we must not permit our tax resources to be wasted. To steward our tax resources in the most prudent way, I support new approaches to management and budgeting that require coordination and efficiency, and that discourage waste in all areas of governmental expenditures supported by our taxpayers.
The State of Colorado is a national gem whose mountains, scenery, wildlife habitat, and waterways entice visitors and residents alike. Our natural resources also provide bountiful energy, mineral, and resource development opportunities, which are huge economic drivers for state and local economies. The economic value we place on our natural resources should be reflected through our severance tax, which os levied on oil and gas production and mineral extraction. It was created to recapture some of the wealth that is irretrievably lost when our natural resources are extracted (or "severed") from the earth, in order to offset negative impacts on the environment, roads and bridges, public services, education, and the economy.
This year Colorado reached historic levels of energy production, specifically of oil and natural gas. Current projections show that in the next ten years Colorado will be the third highest producer of oil and natural gas in the west. Oil and gas development in Colorado has grown to a $9.6 billion industry, one of the largest in our state, and yet the Colorado Severance Tax rate ranks 10th among states in total severance taxes collected. I believe that Colorado should impose a severance tax rate that better reflects the value of our nonrenewable resources. This will require a referred or initiated state constitutional amendment, which I support.
The sale of our natural resources for private gain should come at a high price. The current structure of our severance tax, which includes the payer's ability to deduct property taxes and operating expenses, is crippling Colorado's ability to collect its money due from the sale of our natural resources. While energy development is an important part of our economy, it is also a very intensive type of development that has numerous impacts on our local communities.
Severance tax revenues currently are divided among state agencies such as Department of Natural Resources, Colorado schools, and local governments that are either directly or indirectly affected by mineral, oil, and gas development. The money provides an important revenue stream for local governments who experience impacts from the early to the final stages of activity, and at all points in between. In order to ensure that our local communities have reliable and strong infrastructure, economic opportunity, education systems, public services, and health and human services - and that the outstanding beauty of Colorado endures - we must ask private industry to pay its fair share.