DENVER (KDVR) — Most Colorado voters should get their ballots in the mail sometime this week. Everyone will see two statewide ballot questions. One is garnering a lot of attention because of how it would impact property taxes and TABOR refunds.
Property taxes are a major concern for a lot of Coloradans. This spring, many saw sky-high property tax assessments.
“We didn’t know the severity of the crisis until the very end of session,” Colorado Senate President Steve Fenberg said.
Prop HH contentious among party lines
As a result, Gov. Jared Polis and Colorado lawmakers presented a plan during the final days of the legislative session to bring Proposition HH to the ballot this November. Fenberg was a prime sponsor of the measure.
There was contention around the proposal then, with Republicans walking off the floor during the vote to place it on the ballot. There is still a lot of back and forth going on, specifically around surplus money that could be refunded under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
“The ballot language is very good for the proponents of it. It sounds like everybody would love this,” said Michael Fields, president of Advance Colorado and a Prop HH opponent. “It doesn’t talk about TABOR refunds, how little property tax relief there is really.”
According to Fenberg: “We will continue to have TABOR refunds for the next decade — at least is what the projections are showing. If you read the Blue Book and look at the projections from the economists, it’s very clear what it actually does: that is that next year, everybody in the state of Colorado that’s a taxpayer will get a TABOR refund that is more than what they got last year and more than what they would be getting if HH didn’t pass.”
Prop HH would lower tax rates for property owners and keep some TABOR surplus money to backfill funding for local governments and school districts to make up for the loss in property tax revenues.
Supporters of HH say the measure is the only sensible way to keep TABOR intact without hurting services that run off property tax revenues, like school districts. Opponents argue that property tax relief would be minimal, and those TABOR dollars for taxpayers would keep dwindling every year until they are gone. They want state lawmakers to figure out a better long-term solution.
Gallagher Amendment repeal at issue
Before the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment in 2020, some 45% of the state’s property tax revenue came from residential property taxes, while 55% came from businesses.
“This conversation has been going on with stakeholders since voters took Gallagher out of the constitution a couple of years ago,” Fenberg said, “and that conversation has resulted in some stopgap measures that provided relief previously to make sure that this crisis didn’t happen earlier than it did. And now is when we’re having that final conversation around the long-term replacement of Gallagher.”
Fields said: “I think people are looking at this and saying politicians failed to have action earlier on. Now we’re at a crisis circumstance, and now they’re asking us to pay more because of it. That’s not fair. Just go in and cut the rate. It could be a two-sentence bill to cut the rate and fix this problem. They don’t want to do it because they dislike TABOR so much, they want that money so bad.”
Both sides admit that this is a complex issue. They are urging voters to read their Blue Book and research the potential impacts of HH before submitting a ballot.