DENVER (CBS4) – As property taxes soar, state lawmakers are racing to pass a bill in the final days of the legislative session to stem the pain.
This would reduce property tax increases by $700 million over the next two years, saving the average homeowner $274 per year and small business owners about $1,200. But Rep. Colin Larson calls it bait and switch.
“We negotiated $700 million in relief that was supposed to be property tax relief. He wasn’t supposed to rob Peter to pay Paul,” Larson said.
The bill has Democratic and Republican co-sponsors and takes $225 million in future tax refunds and gives them to local governments and schools to help offset some of the lost tax revenue. Larson says that wasn’t part of the deal.
He and business leaders from Colorado Concern spent weeks negotiating the bill with the governor and Democratic lawmakers. The business group was working on a ballot measure to cap property tax increases at 3% per year, but agreed to withdraw it in exchange for the bill and a commitment to work on a permanent solution.
Larson says the governor broke his word.
“When you look someone in the eye and say that’s the deal, you’re sticking to the deal and that’s what we’re asking for. That’s what I think the governor should deliver and if he doesn’t, then I think the people of Colorado need to know that’s how the governor acts,” Larson said.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Chris Hansen, says it offers promised property tax relief, but he says it shouldn’t come at the expense of K-12 education. Grade 12, which he said would happen if they used money from the general fund to top up tax revenue.
“What I would ask Rep. Larson is which schools do you want us to close? The problem is the marginal dollar in the state budget, and I can say that with certainty as vice chair of the joint budget committee, fate of K-12. That’s where we have to cut,” Hansen said.
Larson says that since the bill falls short of the deal, two ballot measures to cap property taxes are back on the table. Hansen says if they go ahead, the Democratic legislature will go so far as to call a special session to put its own countermeasure back on the ballot.
“I think it’s so important that we stay away from the fixed formulas in the constitution because the economy goes up, the economy goes down, our funding needs change, and that’s what the people of Colorado have hired the legislature to do is adapt, think carefully about the economic data and make a good decision about the balance between taxation and the services people need,” Larson said.
Property taxes are expected to increase by 13% next year and double the following year. Even if the bill passes, homeowners will still see their taxes go up, but they just won’t go up as much.
The bill was passed in the Senate. He will be heard by a House committee on Friday. The legislative session ends next Wednesday.