DENVER (CBS4) – As property tax soars, state lawmakers rush to pass a bill in the final days of the legislative session to curb the pain.
It would reduce property tax increases by $700 million over the next two years, saving the average homeowner $274 dollars a year and small business owners about $1,200. But Representative Colin Larson calls it a bait and switch.
“We negotiated $700 million in relief that was supposed to be relief in property taxes. It was not supposed to be robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Larson.
The bill has Democrat and Republican co-sponsors and takes $225 million in future tax refunds and gives it to local governments and schools to help make up for some of the lost tax revenue. Larson says that wasn’t part of the deal.
He and business executives with 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 to 3% a year but agreed to pull it in exchange for the bill and a commitment to work on a permanent solution.
Larson says the Governor didn’t keep his word.
“When you look someone in the eye and you say this is the deal, you stick to 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 this is how the Governor deals,” Larson said.
One of the sponsors of the bill, Senator Chris Hansen, says it provides promised property tax relief, but he says it shouldn’t come at the expense of K-12 education, which he says is what would happen if they used general fund money to backfill the tax revenue.
“What I would ask Representative Larson is, what schools do you want us to close? The problem is the marginal dollar in the state budget, and I can say this with certainty as the Vice-Chair of the Joint Budget Committee, comes out of K-12. That is where we have to cut,” said Hansen.
Larson says, since the bill doesn’t live up to the agreement, two ballot measures to cap property taxes are back on the table. Hansen says if they go forward, the Democratic legislature would go so far as to call a special session to refer its own countermeasure to the ballot.
“I think it’s so important that we stay away from 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 to adjust, think carefully about the economic data, and make a good decision on the balance between taxation and the services people require,” said Larson.
Property taxes are expected to increase 13% next year and double that the following year. Even if the bill passes, homeowners will still see their taxes go up, they just won’t go up as much.
The bill passed the Senate. It will be heard by a House committee Friday. The legislative session ends next Wednesday.
SECTION: Making Ends Meet