Monthly Archives: March 2015

Raiding the severance tax in Colorado

March 29, 2015

By Bob Cox

Some opinions, comments and links relating to what is happening in this great nation and, in particular, in Western Colorado.

 

The Western Slope is about to get drilled – again.

Colorado has on its books a law commonly known at TABOR, or the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The initiative that brought the law about had good intentions. I have always said that, but as with many of these initiatives, it had some consequences that are not so good, and lawmakers are loath to mess with the substance of the law.

They are not so reluctant to use the law in any way they can to get their hands on pots of money that should not be included in the TABOR at all. The most important for those of us who call the Western Slope of Colorado home, is the severance tax assessed on companies that extract our natural resources from our lands. This money is intended to help with the impacts that the extraction industry has on the locales where the extraction takes place. Half of the money goes to the Department of Natural Resources. The other half is doled out in grants and direct payments to energy-impacted cities, towns and counties.

This year the State of Colorado collected about $70 million over and above the amount allowed by TABOR. That money, by law, has to be returned to the taxpayers, although there are always very inventive ways as to how that happens. There are some “unallocated funds” in the severance tax purse. That simply means that there are grants and direct payments that have not been applied for or made as of right now. It also means that the state lawmakers see the funds as a piggy bank that they have not yet broken.

Originally, these spendthrifts we have representing us wanted to grab $47 million from the severance tax fund to help repay the amount mandated under TABOR. Now they have “settled” on just $20 million. Either amount is wrong. First of all, this money was not collected from the average taxpayer. It is collected from the companies that are providing us with coal, oil and natural gas. If the money is returned at all it should be returned to those companies so they can lower our prices and expand their explorations and production. Secondly, this is not what the severance tax was intended to be used for in the first place.

Of course the supporters of this transfer of funds fall back on the old arguments of needing to steal the money from somewhere other than the general fund because they don’t want to “hurt” the children (education) or health care (Medicaid).

It is time for our lawmakers to come up with some plans to keep what are supposed to be earmarked funds from being used to balance a top-heavy state budget. It is time for them to be brave enough to ask the voters to remove the severance tax from the TABOR oversight – maybe even give it its own limiting rules, which would return surplus to those who really paid it in the first place.

Remember, I only send out these missives to those who have asked for them. I do not share your email addresses with anyone and I use the Reagan email precisely because they don’t share or sell the addresses either. If you are getting this because someone forwarded it to you and you don’t want it, tell him or her not to forward any more. On the other hand, if you received a copy and would like to see more of my ranting, simply drop me a line at coxnotes@Reagan.com I will put you on my exclusive, but growing list.

Bob

© Robert R. Cox 2015

 

Just who are they trying to choke?

It takes a while to read this long list, but please do so. Then, ask yourself what all these businesses or activities have in common.

Ammunition sales – Cable Box De-scramblers – Coin Dealers – Credit card schemes – Credit repair services – Dating services – Debt consolidation scams – Drug paraphernalia sales – Escort services – Firearms sales – Fireworks sales – Get rich products – Government grant services – Home-based charities – Tobacco sales – Lifetime guarantees – Lifetime memberships – Lottery Sales – Mailing list/personal information – Money transfer networks – On-line gambling – Payday loans – Pharmaceutical sales – Ponzi schemes – Pornography – Pyramid-type sales – Racist materials – Surveillance equipment – Telemarketing – Travel clubs.

Give up? These are all activities that are rated as “high risk” under a program that is being led by the Justice Department and incorporated into policy by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation under the direction of Attorney General Eric Holder. The operation has been named “Operation Choke Point.” Its original design, according to Justice officials is to curb the tide of consumer fraud. But, as is usual with the current administration their supporters, they have reached well beyond the stated intentions and are using the program to advance their own political agendas.

If I just put in part of the list, say the cable box de-scrambler sales and the Ponzi schemes, one would assume this is a good thing. If I put in just the legitimate business enterprises, one might assume that there was absolutely no way the government could do such a thing as put these business out of business, but that is exactly what is happening.

By having the FDIC send out “warnings,” the Justice department has cause many legitimate businesses to begin having difficulty dealing with financial institutions. Sales of firearms, ammuntion, tobacco and surveillance equipment is completely legal. It is how these products are used that might cause a problem. It is obvious that, by burying the legal, but not liked, activities in with obviously wrong things, Holder, Obama and their minions are trying to back-door many legitimate activities.

Sen. Mike Crapo -R-Idaho, is trying to get a measure through congress that will put a stop to Operation Choke Point. I intend to do what I can to help him. This is wrong and must not be allowed to continue.

Simplify background checks

March 9, 2015

By Bob Cox

Some opinions, comments and links relating to what is happening in this great nation and, in particular, in Western Colorado.

 

 

The various departments and divisions of the government in the state are deeply involved in the budgetary process for the next fiscal year. One of the early steps in this process is the Colorado General Assembly Joint Budget Committee staff figure setting.

Basically, the JBC gets the requests and the justification for funding from each department. The staff looks at the requests, analyzes the justifications and looks at some independent sources of information. They then recommend certain things to the assembly for inclusion in the state budget. The staff figure setting for the Department of Public Safety (working document) is 107 pages long and brings out one of those troubling duplication of efforts that I have railed about for years.

Colorado Bureau of Investigation has, among a number of other responsibilities, the task of doing background checks for persons who are buying guns and for those applying for concealed weapons permits. This year they are requesting, as part of the concealed weapons permit application budget, $407,687 spending authority to support the hiring of 7.9 technicians and to reduce the processing time for those permits. More than $300,000 of that is in the form of cash funds and the JBC does not like the justification. But the JBC, I think, is looking at this in the wrong way. Let me explain where I am coming from:

Let’s say I decide to buy a handgun. I go to my favorite gun dealer, pick out a nice .45 caliber model 1911 and tell the dealer I will take it. Now, I fill out a form, commonly called the 4473 form. This is not a registration. It is a statement saying that I am not violating the 1968 Gun Control Act, and that I can legally own the firearm. The buyer must sign the form after reading the section that, in part, says, I also understand that making any false oral or written statement, or exhibiting any false or misrepresented identification with respect to this transaction, is a crime punishable as a felony under Federal law, and may also violate State and/or local law.

 

After the form is completed, I pay a ten-dollar fee, which goes to CBI and the dealer forwards the information to the CBI. They do what is known as an Insta-check and get back to the dealer, usually in less than an hour, although times vary, and then CBI either authorizes or denies the sale. I pass and pay for the gun and leave contented.

 

Okay, so I purchase the .45 and like the idea of shooting it for fun, but I also like the idea of having it for personal protection so I sign up for a fairly expensive concealed weapons class, complete the class and take the documents to the local sheriff so I can apply for a permit. I fill out a bunch of forms and pay another fee (much higher this time) to have a background check done. I am told that the background will take about 45 days (a maximum of 90 is allowed) and I go wait, visit the shooting range a few times and wonder what all the fuss is about. But, eventually, I get the call, go back to the sheriff and get my permit. By then I have decided that the .45 is a little bulky to carry and decide to go look for something a little smaller. Back to the dealer, where I pick out a good-looking compact .45 and a $60 holster. I fill out another 4473 form, give the dealer my ten-dollar background fee and wait for a few minutes while CBI decides I can legally purchase the gun. As it stands right now, the fact that I had two background checks in two months has no bearing on the third one.

There has to be a way the legislature can address this, and in the process reduce the expenses incurred by CBI. There has to be a way to fast-track someone who has had several background checks over a period of time, and there has to be a way that the time required for the CCW permit can be drastically reduced. Presenting the CCW permit to a dealer and signing a simple form saying nothing has changed should be enough to walk out of the store with a gun. Is this so complicated? Most of us would not risk a felony for misrepresenting something on the 4473 form in the first place, and we certainly would not walk back in the store if we had a disqualifying circumstance between the original purchase and the present one.

By the way, as I pointed out, the JBC is not satisfied with the CBI justification for the extra funding (known as BA-03) and they recommend not appropriating that portion of the request.

Remember, I only send out these missives to those who have asked for them. I do not share your email addresses with anyone and I use the Reagan email precisely because they don’t share or sell the addresses either. If you are getting this because someone forwarded it to you and you don’t want it, tell him or her not to forward any more. On the other hand, if you received a copy and would like to see more of my ranting, simply drop me a line at coxnotes@Reagan.com I will put you on my exclusive, but growing list.

Bob

© Robert R. Cox 2014