Voting measures target property taxes, child care income | Politics
A right-wing group wants Colorado voters to approve two voting measures this fall to reduce all property taxes and ensure that the Colorado legislature has the sole authority to appropriate all income, not just that collected by through taxes and fees.
Michael Fields, executive director of Colorado Rising State Action, said the two measures, Proposition 120 and Amendment 78, are common sense propositions.
That is why his group, which claims to advance conservative principles and hold the Liberals accountable, proposed and obtained that both measures be put on the ballot this fall.
Carol Hedges, executive director of the Colorado Fiscal Institute, however, called the measures “unnecessary” and “sour,” saying Fields and other supporters of the two measures appear to want to overturn elections they did not win. for their conservative candidates.
She said one measure was already moot due to a bill approved by the Legislature, and the other allows her to be overturned so easily by state lawmakers to make her toothless. .
When Colorado voters last year approved the repeal of the 1982 Gallagher Amendment that kept residential property tax rates low and set it at 7.15%, that did not change the 29% rate for commercial properties.
Fields said it wasn’t fair.
“If they hadn’t frozen it at that higher rate, it would have come down further,” he said of the residential rate. “What we did was we took that ratchet and split it between commercial and residential, so that residential doesn’t go down as far as under Gallagher. We are implementing a 9% property tax cut to help families and small businesses as their property taxes rise.
According to Fields’ proposal, the residential rate would drop to 6.5% and the commercial rate to 26.4%.
If the proposal passes, however, he would face a legal challenge.
This is because, in the closing days of this year’s legislative session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 293, which changed the definition of residential and commercial property with respect to appraisal rates. .
Instead of two categories, there are now five.
This bill, which had bipartisan sponsorship, also reduced the rate for some of these categories, but only for the next two years.
Under it, regular residential properties would be valued at 6.95%, but multi-family properties, from duplexes to apartment buildings, would pay a rate of 6.8%.
Non-residential agricultural properties, such as farms and ranches, and businesses that produce renewable energy would rise to 26.4%, while all other commercial properties would remain at 29%.
Because of this bill, the proposal could end up in court. That’s because the proposal no longer reflects existing law, which means it could be made moot, Hedges said.
Fields, however, said he believed the Legislature had approved the bill, which had the backing of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, just so he could thwart its measure.
“Basically, they’re just changing things and saying, ‘Your law no longer applies now because it’s no longer in the law,’” he said. “It sets a dangerous precedent that whatever they don’t like and know is happening, they can make a difference.”
Fields said if the measure passes, he is already planning to take legal action to say it will take precedence over SB293.
Hedges, however, said the role of the legislature is to pass laws, including lowering taxes if they so choose.
“To me, this is the classic example of why it makes no sense to develop tax policy during the ballot,” she said.
“What is the point of the trial? Are they saying that the legislature does not have the power to lower tax rates? It’s a new take on TABOR, ”added Hedges. “What are they suing for?” I don’t like it because the legislature made our ballot not as cool as we wanted it to be? This is not the basis for a legal challenge.
Hedges said all the measure does is harm local governments, especially in rural areas, because the state does not support property taxes.
She said while it may be nice to cut taxes by around $ 1 billion statewide, as the measure claims, it does have consequences for special districts, such as fires, sewers. and water, not to mention schools, towns and counties.
“Yes, they can go to the polls next year and ask people to raise their factory taxes to generate the exact same amount of money, but what a clumsy way to run a government,” Hedges said. “It’s unnecessary, it’s unfair, it’s a bigger question: it doesn’t make sense that our property tax laws are uniform.”
She said rural areas of the state would be hit hardest by the drop, as property values there aren’t climbing as high as in the Denver metro area. While increasing property values would mean zero impact on richer areas, rural areas that do not have the same increasing values would get less income and be forced to cut services accordingly, Hedges said.
MONEY IN CUSTODY
The second measure, amendment 78, aims to withdraw the powers of appropriation of the governor and the attorney general.
It deals with money the state receives through things like federal special allowances, such as COVID-19 relief payments or money earned through legal settlements initiated by the Colorado Attorney General’s office, including any interest earned on that money, which can all be in the millions of dollars.
While a portion of this income, called “custody money”, is distributed by the Legislature, others can often be considered discretionary and can be distributed directly by the Governor or Attorney General at their discretion.
Some of that money, however, is for specific purposes.
Money from drug company settlements of the opioid epidemic, for example, is typically used to fund treatment programs.
The COVID aid money is intended for things affected by the pandemic, including helping to improve the economy, Hedges said.
Still, Fields said there was no reason why all that money couldn’t be appropriated by state lawmakers, as they already do with tax revenue and money generated from fees and interest earned. .
In this way, the public has a say in where the money goes.
“This money should go into the general fund (of the Legislature) where we can compare it to everything else, and the Legislature be in charge of that money,” he said.
One criticism of the amendment, however, is what to do with the emergency money the state receives, such as fires and floods. Delaying that money to wait for a legislative session or a special session would only slow down the process to get to where it is most needed.
Fields said it was an easy fix.
“They could just go to the next session and say, ‘Look, all the emergency money the governor can spend,’ or up to a certain amount the governor can spend,” he said. “On the first day, they could tell everything was just as it was before. At least we can weigh in and say, “What about this? What about that? ‘ “
If so, then what’s the point of the measure, Hedges asked.
She said it was the first time she had heard this argument in favor of the amendment, saying it made no sense to change the state’s constitution if it could be so easily overturned with a simple draft. law in the Legislative Assembly.
“It’s just unnecessary and it’s going to ruin the work completely,” Hedges said. “It will just force communities to wait when they have emergencies that the legislature did not consider in May regarding the fire that was set to occur in Grand County in October. This one is really disappointing for me. It seems to use the ballot as an offensive tool to react to election results they don’t like.
Because the proposal is a constitutional amendment, it takes at least 55% of voters for it to pass.