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Don't be deceived
Colorado

A committed group of business associations, advocacy organizations, and individuals have formed a powerful coalition opposed to Amendment 73.  

 

THE COALITION INCLUDES: Colorado Bankers Association, Colorado Restaurant Association, Associated General Contractors, Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors, Colorado Association of Realtors, Denver Metro Commercial Association of Realtors, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Competitive Council, Ready Colorado, Independence Institute, Colorado Rising Action, Colorado Farm Bureau, Americans for Prosperity, Building Jobs4Colorado, South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce.

Join the Coalition to
Fight Amendment 73

CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIRS: 

Dave Davia, Executive Vice President & CEO at Colorado Association of Mechanical & Plumbing Contractors

 

Katie Kruger, CEO of the Denver Metro Commercial Association of Realtors

 

Luke Ragland, President, Ready Colorado

 

EDITORIAL:
Amendment 73 starves local governments

By Gazette Editorial Board

Bad ideas don’t get much nuttier than Colorado’s proposed Amendment 73. It would raise taxes by $1.6 billion, purportedly soaking the rich to pay for education.

 

Meanwhile, it would reduce funding for counties, cities and towns, library and water districts, health agencies, fire departments and more.

 

Amendment 73 would defund local services just as we need better roads and bridges. It would reduce revenues for fire districts as wildfires pose increasing devastation. It would financially stress public health agencies dealing with increasing suicide rates, aging populations and an opioid crisis.

 

The ballot doesn’t tell voters the full story what this amendment would do. It comes across as higher taxes for the rich, lower taxes for all else, and more money for schools. What’s not to like?

 

Colorado has long benefited from a flat income tax in which everyone pays 4.63 percent. This means the state imposes no disincentive to success. By raising income taxes on high earners, we tell them to avoid Colorado.

 

Amendment 73 would raise the income tax by 0.37 percent on middle-class workers earning $150,000. It would impose an additional 3.62 percent tax on incomes of $500,000 or more. With a bracket of 8.25, Amendment 73 puts Colorado among 10 states with the highest income tax rates. It aligns us with New York, which imposes an 8.82 percent income tax — but only on incomes exceeding $2.1 million.

 

The amendment would raise Colorado’s flat corporate income tax rate of 4.63 percent by 1.37 percent. At 6 percent, we would out-tax neighboring Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.

 

Next-door neighbor Wyoming has no corporate income tax, as does Texas. Corporations considering relocation to Colorado would have to make peace with paying higher taxes and trying to attract executives willing to pay one of the country’s highest tax rates.

The proposed taxes will kill jobs and send businesses packing.

 

Amendment 73 appears to create lower property taxes for the masses. It reduces the residential school district property tax assessment rate from 7.2 percent to 7 percent. The nonresidential school assessment goes from 29 percent to 24 percent.

 

This may sound great to average voters. One simple amendment sticks high-wage earners with more school funding, while lowering taxes on homes and nonresidential properties.

 

The Colorado Education Association, the teachers union, assures us this amendment brings tax relief. In a statement, the union says Amendment 73 “reduces the nonresidential assessment rate, providing tax relief for those Coloradans who have shouldered a large burden of the local share of school funding … ”

 

The union could not be more openly deceptive. Although it freezes the residential assessment rate at 7 percent, a 0.2 percent reduction, estimates show the rate dipping to 6.11 percent in the 2019 reappraisal. That means the Amendment 73 raises property taxes by locking them in at a rate projected to otherwise drop.

 

Larimer County Assessor Steve Miller explains the scheme might starve other taxing districts because of Colorado’s Gallagher Amendment. Voters overwhelmingly enacted Gallagher in 1982 to place a higher percentage of the tax burden on nonresidential properties. It mandates owners of residential properties pay 45 percent of property taxes, while owners of nonresidential properties pay 55 percent of the tax burden.

 

“The economic theory underpinning Gallagher has proven a bit wobbly over time,” Miller explains in an article for CompleteColorado.com.

 

With passage of Amendment 73, Miller explains, Colorado ends up with two assessed values on every parcel of property in Colorado.

 

“Nonresidential properties would be assessed at both 29 and at 24 percent. Residential properties would be assessed at 7 percent and also at whatever the adjustable Gallagher rate is calculated to be,” Miller explains.

 

Through a tax calculation too wonkish to fully unpack here, Miller shows how Amendment 73 and Gallagher interact to reduce the state’s overall property valuation by at least 8.6 percent.

 

“The assessed values and property tax revenues of taxing authorities that are not school districts would be significantly reduced — contrary to what the amendment’s proponents advertise,” Miller wrote.

 

We need higher wages for teachers and more funding for schools. We can’t afford to achieve these goals with an ill-conceived law that would kill jobs, punish success, and reduce funding for nearly every tax-funded service throughout the state.

 

Fire chiefs, public health professionals, mayors, county commissioners, city officials — and all others who use property taxes to serve the public — need to learn more about Amendment 73. If enacted, their agencies will make do with less.

… if Archuleta County voters were to approve the ASD mill levy override, and if Colorado voters simultaneously approved Amendment 73, then our local school district would find itself with two new funding streams, to fund essentially the same core needs. (The ASD ‘mill levy override’ has a seven-year sunset, however.)”

-  Bill Hudson

 

As a former elementary school teacher, I believe teachers should get paid more. And as a father of three, I want my kid's teachers to be fairly compensated for the important work they do.

 

But we need to be clear about something: Amendment 73's massive tax hike is not the best way to improve teacher pay or put more money into classrooms. While administrative costs have soared, inflation-adjusted teacher pay has slightly declined. Colorado spends more on administrative costs than the U.S. average, and only 53 percent of total expenditures go to "instruction."

 

Teachers are sick of money going everywhere except into classrooms. While teachers spend their own money on whiteboard markers and classroom supplies, administrative bureaucracy is ballooning.

 

Right now, we even have a handful of school districts using tax money to sue the state over a bill that helps more kids get a ride to the public schools that they chose to go to. While these districts are wasting time and money, too many students are falling behind academically. Our kids deserve better.

 

Amendment 73, which will be on the November ballot, is a massive $1.6 billion per year statewide tax increase. In 2011 and 2013 similar tax hikes were crushed by a 2:1 margin by Colorado voters. This time, the structure of the tax might look a little different, but the results would still create an incredibly damaging ripple effect that will touch everyone in the state.

 

Families would see an 8 percent state tax increase for income they make over $150,000,
50 percent for money they make over $300,000, and 78 percent for money they make over $500,000.

 

But another huge problem is the hidden tax on all of us. State business taxes will go up almost 30 percent, and when businesses pass on that increase to consumers, it will hit every one of us in our pockets. Additionally, this significant increase in taxes will discourage business investment in the state – exactly the opposite of what we want.

 

And this is not a one-time tax, or something that will go away. As a ballot initiative, Amendment 73 will change Colorado's Constitution, and forever alter our tax structure.

 

There is also concern that part of the $1.6 billion would be used to backfill the massive unfunded liability facing our unsustainable state worker's pension system (PERA). This fear was a main reason why Amendment 66 lost big in 2013.

 

If we want to improve education funding and actually put more money in our classrooms, where it will directly impact our children's education, it's time to think beyond blanket tax increases. Coloradans have made it clear that roads and education are their main concerns, so let's encourage our state legislators to prioritize our $30 billion state budget around fixing these problems.

 

Amendment 73 and its massive tax hike is not the right answer to Colorado's education funding question. We should do a better job of prioritizing education in our state budget and ensure that more of our tax dollars are going to our teachers and our children, not the education bureaucracy in Colorado.

--- Michael Fields is the Executive Director for Colorado Rising Action,

Former Senior Director of Issue Education for AFP, and a former elementary and middle school teacher.

… if Archuleta County voters were to approve the ASD mill levy override, and if Colorado voters simultaneously approved Amendment 73, then our local school district would find itself with two new funding streams, to fund essentially the same core needs. (The ASD ‘mill levy override’ has a seven-year sunset, however.)”

-  Bill Hudson

 

Miller: Amendment 73 property tax changes detrimental to non-school district taxing authorities

By Steve Miller

Amendment 73 would increase annual income taxes in Colorado by $1.6 Billion. Those tax dollars would go into a separate fund exempt from limits on state spending set by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR)- and they would not be available for any purpose other than PreK-12 education.

 

There would be four additional income tax brackets on top of the current 4.63 percent single rate for individual filers, with a top rate of 8.25 percent, along with a 30 percent increase in the corporate income tax.

 

To stabilize school district property tax revenues, the writers of the amendment went into the property tax laws and did some embellishing there, too. They should have stopped with the income tax.

 

The Gallagher Amendment, passed in 1982, is the foundation of our property tax system. Gallagher specifies that 45 percent of all property taxes paid statewide are paid on residential properties and that 55 percent are paid on nonresidential properties. That 45:55 proportion is the “Gallagher ratio”.

 

Residential properties are where people live: single-family homes, condos and townhouses, mobile homes, apartments, etc. Nonresidential property is everything else: commercial, industrial, vacant land, agricultural, oil and gas, mining, and business personal property.

The Gallagher assessment rate on nonresidential property is 29 percent. The Gallagher assessment rate on residential property is adjusted periodically by the legislature to maintain the 45:55 balance of property tax burden. The residential assessment started out at 21 percent in 1982 and has fallen over the years to 7.2 percent. It is projected to fall to 6.11 percent in the 2019 reappraisal. The economic theory underpinning Gallagher has proven a bit wobbly over time.

 

The actual value of a property is multiplied by an assessment rate to calculate the assessed value of the property. The assessed value is multiplied by the mill levy to calculate property tax on the property.

 

Half of all property taxes in Colorado goes to school districts and half goes to all other taxing authorities: counties, cities and towns, library districts, water districts, fire districts, and health districts, among others.

 

Amendment 73 sets up a separate property tax system for school district taxes. Literature supporting the amendment claims that only school district property taxes are affected by the changes, and that property taxes levied by other taxing authorities would be unaffected. That isn’t necessarily so.

 

Here’s the problem: nothing in Amendment 73 exempts its assessed values from the calculations that maintain the Gallagher ratio.

 

Amendment 73 fixes its school district assessment rate on nonresidential property at 24 percent and its school district assessment rate on residential property at 7 percent. Neither rate is adjustable.

 

So, we would have two assessed values on every piece of property in Colorado. Nonresidential properties would be assessed at both 29 and at 24 percent. Residential properties would be assessed at 7 percent and also at whatever the adjustable Gallagher rate is calculated to be.

 

Because all nonresidential properties would be assessed at both 24 and 29 percent, instead of only at 29 percent, the total assessed value of nonresidential property in the state would drop by 8.6 percent.

 

To preserve the balance of the Gallagher ratio, the total assessed value of all residential property in the state would likewise have to drop by 8.6 percent.

 

Cranking through the assessment math, and including the effects of the new Amendment 73 assessment ratios, shows that the assessed values and property tax revenues of taxing authorities that are not school districts would be significantly reduced – contrary to what the amendment’s proponents advertise.

 

Recalculating the assessed property values that led to the residential assessment rate of 7.2 percent in the 2017 reappraisal with the two assessment rates on nonresidential property and the new fixed ratio of 7 percent on residential property results in a lower assessment rate on residential properties taxed by non-school district authorities. The Gallagher rate would be 6.16, not 7.2 percent – and that would mean a major reduction in property tax revenues from residential properties for non-school district authorities.

 

As it turns out, the only way to adjust for the amendment’s reduced assessment rate on nonresidential properties is to drop the adjustable Gallagher residential rate for non-school district levies. That’s a head scratcher.

 

Amendment 73 alone doesn’t cause the mess of assessment rates and unintended repercussions. The problems began with Gallagher.

 

The legislature is attempting to address problems with Gallagher that have confounded local taxing authorities for years, especially those in rural counties where the real estate markets have not been as robust as the markets along the Front Range, and where the residential property tax bases have been eroding for years.

 

Amendment 73 is too big and needlessly complicated, and it makes Gallagher-related problems worse. Amendment 73 is not a good funding plan for public schools in Colorado. Voters should take a pass on it this year.

 

Steve Miller is the elected assessor for Larimer County in Colorado

… if Archuleta County voters were to approve the ASD mill levy override, and if Colorado voters simultaneously approved Amendment 73, then our local school district would find itself with two new funding streams, to fund essentially the same core needs. (The ASD ‘mill levy override’ has a seven-year sunset, however.)”

-  Bill Hudson

 

Why is Initiative 73 for school funding so complicated? Local experts explain.

While the constitutional amendment would fund schools, it would have lasting impact on city, county funding

 

By Julia Rentsch

Data from the 2016 fiscal year, the latest available, show that nationwide, public school districts on average spend $11,762 per pupil, and Colorado schools spend on average $9,575 per pupil, according to the United States Census Bureau.

 

Initiative 73, formerly known as Initiative 93, seeks to increase the state government's contribution to Colorado public school districts by raising the income tax for those making greater than $150,000 per year in federal taxable income. If voters pass the initiative in November, changes will be written into the Colorado Constitution and the Colorado Revised Statutes without a sunset, or scheduled end.

 

Experts say the quality of a Colorado public school education could certainly increase with more school funding, but the amendment's additional impact on property tax collection makes the issue less straightforward.

 

Cathy Kipp, president of the Poudre School District Board of Education, and Steve Miller, Larimer County assessor, discussed the complexities of Amendment 73 Thursday in a public forum moderated by the League of Women Voters' Mary Dietrich. The following represents a summary of the forum, which sought to help voters understand why voting yes or no on 73 might be more complicated than it might initially seem.

 

What does Initiative 73 propose?

 

The measure seeks to raise $1.6 billion for Colorado schools annually.

 

Under the new amendment, those making between $150,000 and $200,000 annually would be subject to an additional 0.37 percent income tax for schools; those making $200,000 to $300,000, a 1.37 percent tax; from $300,000 to $500,000, 2.37 percent; and above $500,000, 3.62 percent, beginning Jan. 1. The corporate tax on any net income would be 1.37 percent.

 

Additionally, the amendment calls for all residential property to be assessed at 7 percent of its actual value, and non-residential property at 24 percent. These are reduced amounts from the current rates of 7.2 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

 

All of the funds would be held in and spent from a dedicated Quality Public Education Fund. Each district has discretion in how it wants to spend its own funds.

 

The money will be spent to increase the annual per pupil funding to no less than $7,300 in all schools statewide; to increase programs and funding for special education by at least $120 million, for gifted and talented programs by at least $10 million, for English proficiency by at least $20 million and for preschool by at least $10 million; to increase state funding to pupils eligible for free and reduced lunch; and to fund full-day kindergarten statewide.

 

How will this initiative benefit our local school districts?

 

Colorado ranks low, and sometimes last, in various measures of school funding compared to other states, and Colorado schools simply need more money, said Cathy Kipp, president of the Poudre School District Board of Education.

 

The lack of funds has led to larger class sizes and trouble finding teachers due to the inability to offer competitive salaries, Kipp said. And, these issues particularly affect poorer, rural Colorado school districts, which are most sorely in need of money, she said.

 

"Frankly, the only way we can get more school funding for our public schools in Colorado is to go this route, because of stuff that is already in the (state) Constitution," Kipp said, referring to the 1982 Gallagher Amendment and the 1992 Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which both contain provisions that reduce the number of local dollars going into the state budget.

 

School funding calculations are complex, and from 2000 to 2010 the text of the state Constitution called for those calculations to depend on a variety of factors unique to each school district, such as size, area cost of living and the number of kids who qualify for free or reduced lunch. But, after the economy turned downward in 2008, the state Legislature reinterpreted the constitutional language in 2010, and to rebalance the state budget the General Assembly decided to reduce the state's share of total program funding for most school districts.

 

Reducing both local and state dollar contributions into the education budget means schools are losing out, Kipp said.

 

"We're not asking for back pay, but better pay," she said.

 

What happened to all the marijuana money?

 

Kipp said one of the questions she gets most often is, "What happened to all the pot money?" People are under the impression money from retail marijuana is helping schools buy textbooks and pay teachers, she said.

 

Most of the marijuana tax money funds a variety of state departments and programs related to health care and substance abuse prevention, some of which happens in schools, according to the fiscal year 2017-18 appropriations report prepared by the legislature's Joint Budget Committee.

 

Another portion of the total marijuana tax goes to the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund, which helps pay for local K-12 school construction projects. The construction assistance may be for a new roof, or to replace a boiler, but does not help with buying new textbooks or bettering curriculum, Kipp said.

 

"I really believe the voters were misled on the pot tax," Kipp said.

 

How will this new tax impact other taxes in the state?

 

A problem lies with how the amendment would affect the collection of property tax in perpetuity, said Steve Miller, Larimer County assessor.

 

"What Amendment 73 actually creates is a totally different property tax system just for school districts," Miller said Thursday. "I think if they stopped there (after the income tax), it would have been fine. It's still a big ask ... but they got into the property tax system."

 

When the Gallagher Amendment passed in 1982, it was meant to provide property tax relief to homeowners, Miller explained. The amendment fixed the non-residential property assessment rate at 29 percent and established a floating residential rate, with the intent of maintaining a constant statewide ratio in the total property taxes collected statewide: 55 percent nonresidential and 45 percent residential.

 

What the text of Amendment 73 failed to do was exempt itself from that "Gallagher ratio," Miller said. This failure means it is not clear whether school district mill levies will be the only property tax-funded areas affected by the amendment's assessment reduction, as many of the Amendment 73 materials claim.

 

Though schools use about half of all property taxes collected, the rest are split between counties, cities, water districts, fire districts and other governing structures. If the amendment passes, these entities would potentially see their funding reduced, Miller said.

 

The proposed fixed residential assessment rate for school districts also proves a problem as property values increase in certain parts of the state, but not others, Miller said.

 

"Our property values are going up, and our median value is over 400,000 (dollars)," Miller said of Fort Collins. "The problem with setting a statewide residential assessment rate is that we do OK here ... and there's extra money so the county and Poudre (School District) and Thompson (School District) can maintain their budgets. But, that's just not true in rural Colorado. It just isn't."

 

And, the fact that the measure is a constitutional change rather than a statutory change sets those issues in stone.

 

"We have a habit in Colorado of sticking stuff in the Constitution that doesn't belong there," Miller said.

 

Julia Rentsch: 970-699-5404, jrentsch@reporter-herald.com

 

Initiative 73 Text by TimesCall on Scribd

… if Archuleta County voters were to approve the ASD mill levy override, and if Colorado voters simultaneously approved Amendment 73, then our local school district would find itself with two new funding streams, to fund essentially the same core needs. (The ASD ‘mill levy override’ has a seven-year sunset, however.)”

-  Bill Hudson

 

PROGRESSIVE INCOME-TAX AMENDMENT QUESTION REACHES COLORADO BALLOT

Colorado voters will decide in November whether to approve a ballot measure that would replace the state’s flat income tax with a progressive tax and increase taxes on business owners and on individuals earning more than $150,000 per year.

 

Colorado voters will decide in November whether to approve a ballot measure that would replace the state’s flat income tax with a progressive tax and increase taxes on business owners and on individuals earning more than $150,000 per year.

 

Amendment 73, the Establish Income Tax Brackets and Raise Taxes for Education Initiative, asks for voters’ approval of a state constitutional amendment creating four new income tax brackets to replace the current 4.63 percent rate paid by everyone with any taxable income.

 

The proposed amendment would also increase the state’s corporate income tax to 6 percent from its current 4.63 percent. The revenue from the tax hikes would be dedicated to a “Quality Public Education Fund” to be created under the measure.

 

‘It’s a Bait-and-Switch’

 

Colorado state Rep. James Wilson (R–Salida) says the initiative is being presented deceptively.

 

“Amendment 73 sounds good on the surface, but it’s a bait-and-switch,” Wilson said. “If we pass Amendment 73 and establish the ‘Quality Public Education Fund,’ preschool spending, for example, will increase by $10 million. We already spend $250 million on kindergarten alone. So that $10 million provided by the Quality Education Fund is a drop in the bucket. With an overall education budget of $7 billion, we have to ask, ‘Where is this money really going?’”

 

Killing the Golden Goose

 

Penn Pfiffner, chairman of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights Foundation, says Colorado’s current, simple flat tax is attractive to new residents seeking success, and the proposed amendment would chase those achievers away.

 

“Our economy is doing very well compared to other states, and a major reason for the success here is a favorable tax environment that rewards people coming here searching for the American Dream and achieving it,” Pfiffner said. “If Amendment 73 passes, it will be like hanging a sign that says, ‘Take your success elsewhere.’ It lays a heavier and heavier burden on people as they earn more. It adds a disproportionate penalty on income, as income rises.”

 

Pfiffner says Amendment 73 would make Colorado unattractive to entrepreneurs, who will literally take their business elsewhere.

 

“It increases the corporate income tax by 30 percent,” Pfiffner said. “We will be very uncompetitive, with much better deals to be found in other states in the West, if this amendment passes. Anybody who’s earning funds—business owners, corporations, and individuals—will be hurt by this very greedy, over-the-top scheme put forth by the teacher’s union.”

 

Questions Revenue Need

 

Wilson says Colorado’s government schools already provide high-quality education for children, with the existing levels of government revenue.

 

“Our schools are already some of the best of the best,” Wilson said. “They’re succeeding on our current budget. Of course, some of Colorado’s school districts are more successful than others. How can some districts succeed on the current budget and others cannot? Instead of asking what the best school districts are doing right, the less successful districts just say, ‘We don’t have enough money.’”

 

Pfiffner says there’s no causal relationship between school spending and educational quality.

 

“There’s no correlation between the amount spent on K-12 education and the quality of that education,” Pfiffner said. “It’s important to remember that looking at national averages is very misleading. Including school districts that spend huge amounts, like Washington, DC and New York, skews the average. We compare very favorably, and we are ahead of most states around us.”

… if Archuleta County voters were to approve the ASD mill levy override, and if Colorado voters simultaneously approved Amendment 73, then our local school district would find itself with two new funding streams, to fund essentially the same core needs. (The ASD ‘mill levy override’ has a seven-year sunset, however.)”

-  Bill Hudson

Jana Mendez: Beware of the tax burden Amendment 73 would deliver

By Jana Mendez

Voters beware! Amendment 73 is a poorly crafted amendment to our Constitution that will raise taxes on homeowners and other residential property owners. It also possibly increases school property taxes at the expense of cities, counties and special districts. While it pains me to oppose a measure that provides more funds for schools, I cannot support a measure that is being promoted on false premises and that takes away protection from significant tax increases on homeowners. And I truly don't believe that most of those who carried petitions on this issue were aware of this fact.

 

So here's the story: Amendment 73 does increase funding for schools. That funding comes from increases in the individual income tax on income above $150,000 and increases to the corporate income tax. The increase to the individual income tax will impact many small businesses owners who are not corporations. It's estimated that well over 50 percent of small businesses in Colorado file this way.

 

What the proponents of Amendment 73 don't talk about is that the Amendment also increases residential property taxes on all residences in Colorado. Not just residences of wealthy Coloradans but on all residences. And those increased taxes will grow by leaps and bounds as residential property values continue to go up and up. And business property taxes are reduced significantly at the same time. So the places where people live will pay more and businesses will pay less. Over time, these increases will be bigger and bigger as the protection for residential property for school funding purposes is stripped away. That protection — called the Gallagher Amendment — has saved homeowners and residential property owners about $30 billion since the 1980s. Without the Gallagher Amendment, property taxes on homes could easily be double their current amount. Amendment 73, by freezing the Gallagher Amendment at the 7 percent rate for all time, eliminates this protection for school property taxes and causes an estimated $255 million increase in residential taxes statewide in 2019 alone, when the rate is estimated to go to 6.1 percent.

 

Furthermore, the increased property tax for schools might come at the expense of property tax revenue for other local jurisdictions — cities, counties and special districts. So we're upping the tax intake for schools and jeopardizing tax revenue for social services, parks, libraries, public safety, roads and other services.

 

I'll vote anytime for a clean proposal that provides extra funding for schools. But don't count on me to vote for a flawed proposal that taxes homes at a higher rate and gives business a big tax break.

 

Jana Mendez served as a state senator from Longmont and Boulder from 1984 to 1994; served as Boulder County Commissioner from 1994 to 2002; and has lived in Longmont for most of five decades.

… if Archuleta County voters were to approve the ASD mill levy override, and if Colorado voters simultaneously approved Amendment 73, then our local school district would find itself with two new funding streams, to fund essentially the same core needs. (The ASD ‘mill levy override’ has a seven-year sunset, however.)”

-  Bill Hudson