Colorado Democrats Play Tax Games

Ever since the state turned Blue, Democrat politicians have been trying to get at the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which is in the Colorado Constitution.

They are at it again.  This time, Democrat legislators and Governor Jared Polis seem to be trying to trick voters into giving away TABOR refunds they are due to get a little property tax relief.

Recently, Coloradoans received property value estimates that show property taxes will go up substantially, even by 30 to 70 percent.

Shortly thereafter, outside a home in Commerce City, the governor signed SB23-303, a bill that refers Proposition HH to the November 2023 ballot.  It indicates that, if voters approve, the government will slightly reduce property taxes, and then backfill the government from surplus dollars used to give citizens TABOR refunds.

Preceding a feature about the measure on CBS Colorado, News Anchor Karen Leigh said that people are a little confused by what this measure is actually going to do.  Political Specialist Shaun Boyd responded, “And no wonder. It deals with two very complicated subjects: property taxes and the Taxpayer Bill of Rights or TABOR, which caps how much money the State gets to keep.  Proposition HH raises that cap, substantially, over time, and yet the measure makes no mention of TABOR.  It doesn’t say how much it will cost you in tax refunds or save you in property taxes, which is why 12 counties have already signed onto a lawsuit saying the measure is unclear and unconstitutional.”

Boyd pointed out, simply, what the ballot measure will be asking voters.  “Shall the State reduce property taxes for homes and businesses... by using a portion of the state surplus...”

Michael Fields, president of Advance Colorado, who filed the lawsuit, commented that the State is labeling, saying, “This money is just sitting there.  Let’s get some property tax relief.  Doesn’t that sound great?”

However, as KOAA5 News reported, Advance Colorado stated their lawsuit focuses on SB23-303 and Proposition HH and calls them single subject and "clear-title" violations. Also, Fields expects the lawsuit to be expedited because the measure is to be on the November ballot.

Field explained, “Look, you’re going to put something on the ballot that pairs something that is unpopular, taking our TABOR refunds, with something that is popular: property tax relief.  Then those should be in two separate bills.”  Also, Field said the measure is telling voters, if you want property tax relief, give up your TABOR refunds.

Others are speaking up against Proposition HH, as well.

Mark Lewis sent out an opinion by email on May 14, 2023.  “Allow me to break it down for you.  The property tax reduction proposition (Proposition HH) includes a provision to fund any loss of revenue from the general fund.  Essentially, it’s a shell game.  While the proposal claims to lower taxes, the net result is zero savings for taxpayers.  Additionally, while it mandates limits on assessment rates, that actually won’t necessarily curb taxes since municipalities remain free to adjust their levies.  There is a limit on tax revenue increases but, with today’s inflation, that limit would be higher than the existing 5.5% limit in place today.  It’s like chasing your tail, going in circles with no progress.

“Within this proposition, there is a second provision (HB 23-1311) regarding TABOR refunds, which would change the refund method to the single fixed value payout (as used in 2022) regardless of taxpayers’ actual contributions.  Interestingly, this provision passes automatically if voters approve the property tax proposition.  The reasons behind connecting these two provisions is a mystery.  It appears like a wolf is trying to sneak into the flock.”

Also, a coalition of 12 organizations has formed to fight Proposition HH.  They include Americans for Prosperity-Colorado, Broomfield Taxpayer Matters, Centennial Institute, Colorado Union of Taxpayers, Colorado Women’s Alliance, Independence Institute, Liberty Scorecard, Lincoln Club Colorado, Springs Taxpayers United, Steamboat Institute, and TABOR Committee.  The coalition said in a press release that Colorado is expected to return $2.7 billion in TABOR refunds in the coming year.

AFP-CO State Director Jesse Mallory said, “This latest move by the legislature to use Coloradans’ own TABOR refunds as a bait and switch to support Prop HH and eliminate refunds is government at its worst.  Coloradans deserve better.  We at Americans for Prosperity will be sure to educate voters on the true intent of this disastrous package and will hold these legislators accountable.” 

This is not the first time Colorado Democrats have used deceptive tactics concerning TABOR.  In 2022, when Governor Polis was running for reelection, the government moved up the timing of TABOR refunds to just before the election, and then the governor called the refunds the Colorado Cashback, as if payments were coming to citizens from him.

Update: This article erroneously associated Mark Lewis with the TABOR Foundation. We have corrected that error.

C.S. Boddie writes for Meadowlark Press, LLC.

Image: Colorado Democrats

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