Can’t raise taxes? Just call it a ‘fee’

In a society where voters more and more are choosing to restrain government and its activities, lawmakers in Colorado were faced with a dilemma: They wanted to borrow and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on bridge repairs and feared voters, who under the state Constitution would have to approve any borrowing plan or tax increase, would object because of the state’s rocky economy.

So the solution adopted in Colorado’s Democrat-controlled legislature was to create an “enterprise” – an entity owned and run by the state Department of Transportation – to take over the responsibility to repair and replace those bridges. As an “enterprise,” its managers, the same people who make decisions for the state agency, could borrow money without voter approval and could raise taxes on taxpayers as long as they called them “fees.”

But now a think tank in Golden, Colo., has published a series of commentaries from analysts in what could be the start of a campaign to highlight what lawmakers did to their constituents, or at least publicize the maneuvers so that voters are aware of why their license “fees” for a $400 homemade trailer now reach a full 10 percent of its original cost – each and every year.



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