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Colorado Republicans allege Polis violating campaign finance rules with TABOR refunds

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Robert Davis

(The Center Square) – Colorado Republicans Thursday accused Democratic Governor Jared Polis of violating campaign finance rules by using taxpayer dollars to send letters out along with refund checks that they argue promote his re-election campaign. 

Colorado taxpayers are set to receive $750 refunds for individuals and $1,500 for joint filers by the end of September because of a bill signed into law by the governor that moved the payout of the refunds up from next spring to this summer, prior to the November general election. Polis and Democratic lawmakers have labeled the plan the “Colorado Cash Back” program, even though the refunds are required under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR), the state constitutional amendment. 

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Jared Polis - elected Governor of Colorado in November 2018.

The refund checks are being mailed out this week and will be accompanied by a letter from the governor, which doesn't mention TABOR by name.

"On behalf of the State of Colorado, it is a true pleasure to send you this enclosed 'Colorado Cashback' refund check," the letter states in part.

The Colorado GOP filed a campaign finance complaint against the governor Thursday, alleging Polis is "blatantly using taxpayer dollars to help himself get re-elected."

"For years Jared Polis, [Treasurer] Dave Young, and Colorado Democrats fought to kill and undermine TABOR, now they are using its benefits to lie to voters," Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said in a statement. "This letter has Jared Polis’ name on it in three different areas, yet doesn’t mention TABOR once. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) is the reason Coloradans are receiving this money."

"This political stunt violates the constitution and falls under the definition of ‘electioneering’ with state dollars," she added.

Polis' office referred The Center Square to the governor's campaign, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The governor said during a Wednesday press conference that lawmakers chose to move up the refunds because taxpayers "need it now."

"Does anybody want the government sitting on your money for 10 months? I don't think anybody wants that, so let's get it back to you now when you need it," Polis said.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Heidi Ganahl in a statement pointed to Polis' support in 2019 for Proposition CC, a ballot measure voters defeated that would have allowed the state to permanently retain all revenue collected above the TABOR spending cap instead of refunding it to taxpayers.

“Using taxpayer dollars for a very expensive campaign ploy is unacceptable,” Ganahl said. “I call on Jared Polis to report this as a campaign expenditure and pay back the people of Colorado.”