January 27, 2011
A federal judge in Denver ruled Wednesday that a law passed by Democrats last year in an attempt to raise state revenue is unconstitutional, and state Republicans are using the decision as ammunition in their fight to repeal the bill.
Typically referred to as the “Amazon tax,” last year’s House Bill 1193 requires out-of-state retailers — such as Amazon.com — to either collect sales taxes or provide the state with a list of customers who owe sales taxes, and how much they owe.
Amazon last year retaliated against the law by cutting ties with its affiliates in the state, who advertised Amazon on their websites for a fee.
Now, House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument, will carry a bill to repeal the Amazon tax, and she’s pointing to Judge Robert Blackburn’s ruling as proof that the law is unconstitutional.
Blackburn wrote in his decision that the law violates the U.S. Commerce Clause, and places an “undue burden” on out-of-state retailers. He issued a preliminary injunction against the law, effectively halting any income to the state.
Stephens said Blackburn justified every argument Republicans made against the bill in the 2010 legislative session.
“I hate to say ‘I told you all so,’ but ‘I told you all so,’” said Stephens gleefully. She said the law has cost Colorado 4,000 jobs since its inception.
She also may wind up having an unexpected ally in her attempt to repeal the law. Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday that he hasn’t decided whether or not to support Stephens’s bill.
“We’re certainly discussing it,” Hickenlooper said. “We have to make sure that we are creating every opportunity for our businesses to grow. Everything we can think of. We’ll discuss it all.”
Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said Stephens was wrong about the law costing Colorado jobs. He said the amount earned by affiliates is never enough to live on.
“I can’t find a single one of those jobs that pay more than $600 a year. So she and I have different definitions of what a job is,” he said.
Morse said he highly doubts the law will ultimately be found unconstitutional, but admitted that it’s possible.
“It’s in the courtroom, so it’s sort of like me saying, ‘I think the Green Bay Packers are going to knock the snot out of the Pittsburgh Steelers,’ but now, we play the game and we see,” Morse said.