Property Tax Special Session

Property Tax Special Session

Happy Sunday Morning!

I’m writing with three updates today:

  1. Don’t forget to sign up to testify in support of the state placing an air toxics monitoring station in Lakewood where there have been concerns about unsafe levels of ethylene oxide. More details here.
  2. We are cancelling our Central Jeffco Town Hall meeting on Nov. 18th, because…
  3. Governor Polis is calling the General Assembly into a Special Session starting November 17th.

If you haven’t already read the news, I’ll take a moment to explain what’s going on with the special session.

As you know, the legislature’s annual regular session runs from January to May. But the Governor also has the authority to call us into a special session to tackle urgent issues that arise from time to time.

In this case, it’s all about property taxes.

In the election that concluded last Tuesday, voters soundly rejected Proposition HH which would have cut next year’s property tax increases in half for the average homeowner while ensuring school districts, fire departments, and child welfare offices received “backfill” funding from the state to help make up for their lost property tax revenues. The state would have been able to afford this by changing the way we calculate the annual TABOR cap, allowing the state to retain an additional 1% of tax revenue every year that otherwise would have been refunded to taxpayers.

While I supported HH, I also understand why voters did not. It was incredibly complicated and controversial, pairing multiple ideas that had varying support across the political spectrum. Some voted no because they were worried that property tax reductions would inevitably harm our schools, Some voted no because they didn’t want to see a reduction in future TABOR refunds. Some voted no because local governments were not getting enough backfill funding.

Among the many lessons I learned is this one: keep it simple.

Another is that we need to grapple with the tough question of who needs a property tax cut, and who does not. For my part, I believe there are many in our state who are not struggling to pay their taxes, but I also believe there are many low and middle income Coloradans and small businesses who do need help keeping up with these costs.

But because HH failed, property taxes are set to go up next year. In Jeffco, we’re estimating they’ll go up by an average of 40%. And that’s why Governor Polis is convening a special session. We have just a few weeks before county assessors have to finalize property tax bills for next year. Just because Plan A didn’t work out doesn’t mean that the state doesn’t have a responsibility to tackle this issue while there’s still time.

I am playing a fairly significant role, along with several other legislators, in developing Plan B. I spent much of last week in meetings with local government leaders from our school districts, counties, cities, fire departments, and other special districts to start building toward an alternative.

Without adjusting the TABOR cap (which we can’t do without voter approval), there’s no way the property tax reductions can be as large as they were in HH, or as broadly distributed. So the goal is to target the cuts that we can afford to the taxpayers who need help the most, as well as to utilize other economic security policies like the earned income tax credit, renter assistance programs, and a fairer distribution of TABOR refunds.

What are your priorities for this challenging moment? Reply to this email to let me know. I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts as I continue to engage with stakeholders to develop a responsible solution for the people of Colorado.

Your representative (for just one more year),
Chris deGruy Kennedy

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