Huber v. Colo. Mining Ass'nAnnotate this Case
The issue on appeal to the Supreme Court was whether the Court of Appeals' ruling that the Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution (Amendment 1) required statewide voter approval each time the Colorado Department of Revenue calculated an increase in the amount of tax due per ton of coal extracted as directed by the formula codified in C.R.S. 39-29-106. After Amendment 1 went into effect, the Department suspended using the tax mechanism for calculating upward adjustments in the amount of coal severance tax owed based on inflation. Following an auditor's review in 2006, an Attorney General's opinion and a rule-making proceedings, the Department recommended applying the statute to calculate the tax due. Implementation resorted in a tax of $0.76 per ton of coal as compared to $0.56 per ton collected in 1992 when Amendment 1 first passed. The Colorado Mining Association and taxpayer coal companies filed an action challenging collection of the $0.76 per ton amount. Colorado Mining asserted that whenever the Department calculated an upward adjustment in the amount of tax due under the statute, it must obtain voter approval. The Court of Appeals agreed, but the Supreme Court disagreed. The Court held that the Department's implementation of section 39-29-106 was not a tax increase, but a "non-discretionary duty required by a pre-Amendment 1 taxing statute which did not require voter approval." Accordingly, the Court reversed the appellate court's judgment and reinstated the trial court's judgment, which held that the Department must implement the statute as written.