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Colorado Democrats promise to ease the burden on your wallet. Here’s what to expect.

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Colorado Democrats promise to ease the burden on your wallet. Here’s what to expect.

Gov. Jared Polis is pitching increased savings for Coloradans more than any other campaign pledge, by far, as he seeks a second term as governor.

Citizens may have picked that up in one of the dozens of references to cost-savings in his State of the State speech earlier this month. Or on his social media, or when he spoke on the Capitol steps ahead of the 2022 legislative session and promised to work on “making the state more affordable for everyone,” or in virtually any other recent public remarks not specifically devoted to the COVID-19 pandemic or the Marshall fire.

But, as Polis himself acknowledges, there are limits to how much money state government can really save people. This state’s government, unlike Congress, cannot deficit-spend, meaning that each year’s budget must be balanced against actual revenues.

On top of that, there’s the fact that Polis and his fellow Democrats who control the legislature and write the budget have some potentially significant disagreements over how to save people money this year, using what levers Colorado has.

That all means Coloradans should temper their expectations against reality.

How much fee relief is coming?

Take, for example, the governor’s fee relief package, which he’s touted early and often in 2022. Included in that package is the delayed implementation of a scheduled 2-cents-per-gallon fee at gas pumps; waiving of professional licensing fees for nurses and other health care workers; waiving of the fee the state typically imposes on people incorporating new businesses; and lowering or freezing fees at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“We must double down on our promise to help every business and family succeed,” Polis said in his State of the State speech. “That means taking less of your hard-earned money in fees and taxes, and putting more in your pockets and paychecks.”

But the fee relief package totals just above $100 million. Were the benefits distributed evenly among Coloradans, each person would be getting $17. Polis is devoting much airspace to line items that promise small amounts of money in most people’s pockets. The driver’s license fee freeze will save people $1.54 and the vehicle registration fee cut will save people about $11, according to the governor’s proposal. People starting new businesses will get $49 in relief. The most substantial savings go to a subset of folks — health care workers — who will each keep up to $162.

Said state Sen. Dominick Moreno, vice chair of the powerful Joint Budget Committee, “I do think it’s a response to the reality that a lot of people right now are concerned about how much costs are increasing. They’re concerned about inflation, that less and less of their paycheck is take-home pay … It’s an effort to respond to that.”

But, the Commerce City Democrat added, “The reality is that many of the proposals are relatively small-scale in the grand scheme of things. The car registration fees, it really works out to be saving people maybe a dollar a month. It’s not very targeted and in my view it doesn’t qualify as all that meaningful.”

To the extent that Coloradans will see significant economic relief from the government this year, most has little or nothing to do with Polis. The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) requires the government to refund citizens in strong fiscal years like this one, which means Coloradans are set to receive several hundred dollars on average this year — or more, if they have a high salary. TABOR rules also trigger a temporary income tax cut this year, which will deliver the average person more money than they’ll get from the entire fee relief package.

In an interview with The Post, Polis said that even though he highlights coming tax and fee cuts so regularly, he understands they are just a small part of the picture. He points to much more sweeping efforts his administration has made that will save participating citizens thousands each — universal kindergarten and pre-K, plus recently bolstered tax credits for working families, chief among them.

Saving people money, he said, “is not something new to us.”

In November alone, an estimated $261 million flowed into Colorado from the federal expanded child tax credit, which gave hundreds of thousands of Colorado households more than $400 a month on average. That program is dead for now, as Democrats in Congress have failed to pass President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. And it’s that kind of money that Polis knows makes a much bigger dent that anything coming out of his office or the legislature.

“I’m deeply concerned,” he said about the child tax credit. “A low-income family this (past) year, with kids, likely got around $7,200. … The state (credit) is just $1,200 and only goes up to age 6. And that was expensive for the state.

“We never have the ability to do what the federal government is doing.”

Added Alec Garnett, a Denver Democrat and speaker of the Colorado House, “We understand how hard these last couple of years have been on Coloradans. We’re trying to do the best we can to let folks know we’re working not to solve every problem that they have, … but to show people we’re on their side. Even if it’s a little bit, at least it’s something.”

Given that Colorado has such little relative budget flexibility, the people who control the Joint Budget Committee — Democrats have a majority there, as they do throughout the Capitol — feel it’s important that the state consider reforms to provide more money to those who need it, in a more precise way than, say, across-the-board refunds. TABOR doesn’t leave much wiggle room, but it does allow the legislature to decide to a large extent how — though not if — refunds go out in years like these.

“Look, $100 million is $100 million,” said state Sen. Chris Hansen, a budget writer and Denver Democrat. “What I’d say is that the proposal kicks off a conversation with the legislature about fee relief more broadly, and we are looking at additional options that would likely go further than the initial proposal.

“It’s a pretty long list. I appreciate the governor highlighting this issue and we’ve got other additional, targeted proposals that we think can make a material difference, particularly to the people who need it most.”

That may be where Polis splits from his fellow Democrats at the Capitol. He’s been a proponent of across-the-board measures, like cutting or even eliminating the state income tax, and he’s been a cheerleader for TABOR refunds, which every income tax filer receives. Progressives like Hansen and Moreno would, generally speaking, like to see more of the savings going to the neediest interests.

Polis hasn’t said much about whether he’ll fight Democrats if and when they try to change the refund scheme.

“If that’s what they want to talk about we’re always open to that,” he said. “It’s not part of our legislative agenda this session.”

It’s a big conversation, whether or not Polis wants to have it now; in each of the coming three fiscal years, Colorado is projected to have more than $2 billion to refund — massive sums in the context of a state budget that’s lately hovered around $35 billion, and that this year should reach a record $40 billion.

This is very much on the minds of lawmakers who, ironically, could use fee relief in their fight to reform refund mechanisms. That’s because when the state takes in fewer fees, it collects less revenue, and there is less overall money left over to be used for refunds.

As state Sen. Bob Rankin, a budget writer and Carbondale Republican, said, “Where does fee relief come from? … You get less TABOR refund by paying a little bit less for fees. It’s just a shell game.”

Rankin and other Republicans have taken note of how much Polis has talked about tax and fee cuts lately. Rankin’s majority leader, Douglas County Republican state Sen. Chris Holbert, told reporters recently that Polis must be seeing the same polls he’s seeing.

That would make sense, said the Democratic Colorado pollster Andrew Baumann.

“The biggest danger for any political party that’s in power is to be seen by voters as focusing on the things that aren’t important,” he said. “Right now they think cost of living is really important. I think it makes all the sense in the world for Democrats to be really single-mindedly focused on that, knowing that they have a lot of popular accomplishments from last year’s session they can turn back to in the fall.”

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Jim Hagedorn family suing widow Jennifer Carnahan for medical expenses

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Jim Hagedorn family suing widow Jennifer Carnahan for medical expenses

Family members of the late U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn of Minnesota say his widow, Jennifer Carnahan, who is running to replace her husband in Congress, hasn’t come through on a promise to pay them back medical expenses related to his cancer treatments.

Carnahan calls it a political stunt.

Two lawsuits filed Monday by Hagedorn’s mother, stepfather and sister allege they helped pay for cancer treatments he received at Envita Medical Centers in Arizona. Carnahan made a “clear and definite promise” to use inheritance she was to receive after his death to reimburse his family members, according to the complaints.

Carnahan said Hagedorn’s estate is required to go through the probate process in the courts to determine how to divide up his assets and there is nothing more she can do at this time.

“Grief affects everyone differently. Handling the affairs of my husband’s estate should be a private matter,” Carnahan said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate a very simple process has been turned into a political stunt.”

Hagedorn died after a long battle with kidney cancer on Feb. 17. He was told in January that there were no more treatments available for him at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, which is his congressional district, so he sought additional treatments at the facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Star Tribune reported.

A suit filed by Hagedorn’s mother, Kathleen Kreklau, and stepfather said they used $10,000 of a $25,000 home equity loan to help cover medical costs. In a separate complaint, Hagedorn’s sister, Tricia Lucas, said she charged $10,000 on a credit card to help cover the costs of his treatment and was promised repayment by Carnahan.

Both lawsuits allege Carnahan was to receive a $174,000 death benefit from the United States government after Hagedorn died, as well $174,000 from his life insurance policy.

Carnahan closed her statement by saying she wishes “Jim’s family well and know this time has been very difficult for all of us.”

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Explainer: Why is Wall Street close to a bear market?

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Explainer: Why is Wall Street close to a bear market?

NEW YORK — The bears are rumbling toward Wall Street.

The stock market’s skid this year has pulled the S&P 500 close to what’s known as a bear market. Rising interest rates, high inflation, the war in Ukraine and a slowdown in China’s economy have caused investors to reconsider the prices they’re willing to pay for a wide range of stocks, from high-flying tech companies to traditional automakers.

The last bear market happened just two years ago, but this would still be a first for those investors that got their start trading on their phones during the pandemic. For years, thanks in large part to extraordinary actions by the Federal Reserve, stocks often seemed to go in only one direction: up. Now, the familiar rallying cry to “buy the dip” after every market wobble is giving way fear that the dip is turning into a crater.

Here are some common questions asked about bear markets:

WHY IS IT CALLED A BEAR MARKET?

A bear market is a term used by Wall Street when an index like the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, or even an individual stock, has fallen 20% or more from a recent high for a sustained period of time.

The S&P 500 index slid 165.17 points Wednesday to 3,923.68 It’s now down 18.2% from its high of 4,796.56 on Jan. 3. The Nasdaq is already in a bear market, down 29% from its peak of 16,057.44 on Nov. 19. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is 14.4% below its most recent peak.

The most recent bear market for the S&P 500 ran from February 19, 2020 through March 23, 2020. The index fell 34% in that one-month period. It’s the shortest bear market ever.

WHAT’S BOTHERING INVESTORS?

Market enemy No. 1 is interest rates, which are rising quickly as a result of the high inflation battering the economy. Low rates act like steroids for stocks and other investments, and Wall Street is now going through withdrawal.

The Federal Reserve has made an aggressive pivot away from propping up financial markets and the economy with record-low rates and is focused on fighting inflation. The central bank has already raised its key short-term interest rate from its record low near zero, which had encouraged investors to move their money into riskier assets like stocks or cryptocurrencies to get better returns.

Last week, the Fed signaled additional rate increases of double the usual amount are likely in upcoming months. Consumer prices are at the highest level in four decades, and rose 8.3% in April compared with a year ago.

The moves by design will slow the economy by making it more expensive to borrow. The risk is the Fed could cause a recession if it raises rates too high or too quickly.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has also put upward pressure on inflation by pushing up commodities prices. And worries about China’s economy, the world’s second largest, have added to the gloom.

SO, WE JUST NEED TO AVOID A RECESSION?

Even if the Fed can pull off the delicate task of tamping down inflation without triggering a downturn, higher interest rates still put downward pressure on stocks.

If customers are paying more to borrow money, they can’t buy as much stuff, so less revenue flows to a company’s bottom line. Stocks tend to track profits over time. Higher rates also make investors less willing to pay elevated prices for stocks, which are riskier than bonds, when bonds are suddenly paying more in interest thanks to the Fed.

Critics said the overall stock market came into the year looking pricey versus history. Big technology stocks and other winners of the pandemic were seen as the most expensive, and those stocks have been the most punished as rates have risen.

Stocks have declined almost 35% on average when a bear market coincides with a recession, compared with a nearly 24% drop when the economy avoids a recession, according to Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at LPL Financial.

SO I SHOULD SELL EVERYTHING NOW, RIGHT?

If you need the money now or want to lock in the losses, yes. Otherwise, many advisers suggest riding through the ups and downs while remembering the swings are the price of admission for the stronger returns that stocks have provided over the long term.

While dumping stocks would stop the bleeding, it would also prevent any potential gains. Many of the best days for Wall Street have occurred either during a bear market or just after the end of one. That includes two separate days in the middle of the 2007-2009 bear market where the S&P 500 surged roughly 11%, as well as leaps of better than 9% during and shortly after the roughly monthlong 2020 bear market.

Advisers suggest putting money into stocks only if it won’t be needed for several years. The S&P 500 has come back from every one of its prior bear markets to eventually rise to another all-time high. The down decade for the stock market following the 2000 bursting of the dot-com bubble was a notoriously brutal stretch, but stocks have often been able to regain their highs within a few years.

HOW LONG DO BEAR MARKETS LAST AND HOW DEEP DO THEY GO?

On average, bear markets have taken 13 months to go from peak to trough and 27 months to get back to breakeven since World War II. The S&P 500 index has fallen an average of 33% during bear markets in that time. The biggest decline since 1945 occurred in the 2007-2009 bear market when the S&P 500 fell 57%.

History shows that the faster an index enters into a bear market, the shallower they tend to be. Historically, stocks have taken 251 days (8.3 months) to fall into a bear market. When the S&P 500 has fallen 20% at a faster clip, the index has averaged a loss of 28%.

The longest bear market lasted 61 months and ended in March 1942 and cut the index by 60%.

HOW DO WE KNOW WHEN A BEAR MARKET HAS ENDED?

Generally, investors look for a 20% gain from a low point as well as sustained gains over at least a six-month period. It took less than three weeks for stocks to rise 20% from their low in March 2020.

___

Veiga reported from Los Angeles.

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‘Nobody likes it’: Orioles’ Trey Mancini responds after Aaron Judge, Yankees take aim at Camden Yards’ left field wall

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‘Nobody likes it’: Orioles’ Trey Mancini responds after Aaron Judge, Yankees take aim at Camden Yards’ left field wall

Asked about comments from New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone and outfielder Aaron Judge about Camden Yards’ new left field wall, Trey Mancini, the longest-tenured Oriole, acknowledged it’s not the first time he’s heard such complaints from visiting hitters.

“Nobody likes it,” Mancini said with a laugh. “No hitters like it, myself included.”

Both Boone and Judge were critical of the Orioles’ changes to their iconic ballpark after Tuesday’s 5-4 victory, in which Judge homered twice but lost a potential third home run on a ball that would have left every other ballpark, as well as Camden Yards a year ago. Judge called the changes, which featured moving the left field wall back nearly 30 feet and increasing its height by more than five feet to reduce the ease of homering to that portion of the ballpark, a “travesty.”

“It looks like a create-a-park now,” Judge told reporters, with Boone adding, “Build-your-own-park got him.”

Entering Wednesday, Judge’s lost home run is one of six balls hit by visitors that would have likely left Camden Yards with the ballpark’s prior dimensions, according to tracking from The Baltimore Sun. The Yankees were responsible for half of those in the previous two days; no visiting player had cleared the wall entering Wednesday’s game.

Mancini has twice lost a home run to the new wall, christening it with a double off the padding during Baltimore’s first homestand. The Orioles have lost eight home runs to the wall, with Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander managing to hit balls over it.

As he and other Orioles hitters have done since plans for the wall were first reported this offseason, Mancini repeatedly noted that “it is what it is.” Mountcastle, like Judge, has hit a ball that only stayed in because it was hit at Camden Yards, a blast hit off the very top of the new wall. Mancini said the players are able to laugh about such things, knowing it’s out of their control.

“There’s nothing we can do to change it,” Mancini said. “It’s nothing you can be thinking about when you’re up at the plate. But it doesn’t make it any less tough when you hit a ball that you think should definitely be a homer.”

Tuesday’s comments mark the second time this month New York has been involved in ballpark dimensions discourse. After Gleyber Torres’ walk-off home run May 8 over the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium, Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward said the ball would have been “an easy out in 99% of ballparks. … He just happened to hit it in a Little League ballpark.” In response, Boone quipped Woodward’s “math is off” because there are 30 parks, meaning 99% wouldn’t be possible.

Since Yankee Stadium opened in 2009, Camden Yards is the only major league venue where more home runs have been hit.

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde, though, didn’t take a shot when Boone critiqued his team’s home park, saying he would “take the high road.” He referenced comments from Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli about how the changes to Camden Yards require right-handed hitters to, as Hyde put it, “become true hitters.”

“Before, fly balls to left field were homers, and it was really unfair a lot of times,” Hyde said. “It’s just playing more fair than before.”

The Orioles’ hitters, though, will naturally be affected by it more than those of any other team, so comments like Judge’s and Boone’s fall somewhat flat to Mancini. The changes came at a poor time for Mancini, who is a potential free agent and whose future earnings depend on a strong 2022 season.

“We play half our games here, so …,” Mancini said. “I know that [Judge’s] ball probably should be a homer, but yeah, we’ve had quite a few, too, that should have been. Like I said, we play half our games here, so not great as a right-handed hitter.

“It’s still our job to go out there and play, so complaining about it’s not going to help us out. But that doesn’t mean we necessarily like it, either.”

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