Mar 28, 2010 7:27 AM by Matt Stafford
Anti-tax activist, Douglas Bruce, says Colorado lawmakers are violating the state constitution, and he filed a lawsuit Friday.
"They have to set aside 3 percent of fiscal year spending, which is a dollar amount." Bruce says, but emphasizes that the money in those accounts is intended to remain in cash form so that it can be spent in the event of an emergency declared by the Governor or the state legislature. It's part of the Tax Payer's Bill of Rights amendment to Colorado's constitution. Bruce authored the bill, which passed in 1992. He says the intent was to maintain savings to use, so that taxes wouldn't need to be raised to in the event of unforeseen emergencies.
Bruce says the money in those accounts has been replaced with state property. He says no emergency has been declared, but those funds have been moved, which Bruce says is illegal.
"They plundered it. They drained the account and replaced it with a list of real estate that they own," says Bruce. "I don't care how many buildings you own, you can't use a building in a declared emergency."
Bruce says the annual amount put into the fund is over $200 million, but it's only about one and a half percent of the state's net assets.
Senate Majority John Morse thinks Bruce's thoughts on the state's assets are misplaced.
"A huge chunk of those (the state's net assets) are cash funds and federal funds which can't be moved around the way that we need to," says Morse.
As for moving the emergency funds, Morse says Colorado and other states have managed funds through assets, like property, for years.
Morse thinks Bruce's lawsuit is more about Bruce having control over the interpretation of the amendment he wrote. However, Bruce is serious with his intentions with the lawsuit. He not only looks for the money to be replaced, he wants Governor Ritter and the General Assembly to face consequences. He seeks them in the suit, like a quarter of their pay.
"I think people ought to pay a penalty when they steal a trust fund," Bruce explains.
Waiting on the trial, Bruce is unsure as to what the outcome will be. He says it depends on which judge hears the case.
Morse is pretty certain about one thing.
"We don't have a choice; once he files it, we have to defend against it."