Jared Polis introduces plan to save Colorado homeowners average of $274 per year on property tax

Colorado leaders announced a second round of property tax relief measures Monday, to the tune of about $274 a year for people with $500,000 homes, while promising it wouldn’t undercut the local services those taxes typically fund.

The measure, unveiled by Gov. Jared Polis, House Majority Leader Rep. Daneya Esgar, both Democrats, and Sens. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, and Bob Rankin R-Carbondale, would cut property taxes for homeowners and commercial property owners by about $700 million statewide over two years.

The pitch comes with fewer than 10 days left in this session of the General Assembly and as potential ballot measures to more drastically cap the taxes stew.

“There’s been a lot of ballot initiatives filed in this space because it’s a legitimate frustration of Coloradans,” Polis said at a news conference unveiling the measure. “Very simply, the people were demanding that the legislature do something on property taxes.”

The plan would cap how much property taxes grow, though the legislation with those details wasn’t immediately available. It would save the owner of a $500,000 home about $274 a year, Polis said, and the owner of a $500,000 commercial property, which is taxed at a higher rate, about $1,200. About $400 million in state money would go to counties, based on population size and population growth, to make sure they don’t need to cut things like fire service or school funding, backers said.

Hansen said he expects the savings will be passed through to renters or leasers either directly through contracts where the tenant pays for property tax premiums or because there is less cost to be passed on.

In short, the plan is funded like this, according to Hansen:

  • $200 million from one-time surplus general fund dollars this year
  • Another $200 million from projected 2023 tax collections in excess of what’s allowed under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and would have to be returned to taxpayers in some manner
  • and $300 million that wouldn’t be collected due to caps in property tax collection imposed by the proposal.

The legislation wasn’t yet introduced when it was announced Monday afternoon so some details weren’t immediately available. It still faces negotiations when it is up for debate in the legislative chambers.

State Rep. Colin Larson, R-Littleton, has filed a ballot initiative that would cap property tax increases at 3%, and cut collections by an estimated $1.3 billion. Ahead of the announcement, he told reporters some of his concerns and questions about this effort — which he characterized as not reflecting an earlier compromise to his initiative — before being ushered out of the governor’s office ahead of the news conference.

After the bill’s announcement, he said people he’s working with on the ballot initiative are assessing the proposal. Larson called the $700 million package “a cut to the increase” of property taxes many Coloradans will still be facing — not a true cut to what people will face. He also criticized it for taking money from constitutionally required tax refunds to pay for property tax cuts.

“This is the legislative process. It’s messy,” Larson said. “There’s time to fix it. But at the end of the day, this wasn’t what was discussed and wasn’t what was negotiated.”

Mike Kopp, president and CEO of pro-business organization Colorado Concern, said in a statement that his group and elected officials are focused on similar goals with property taxes.

“With a little luck, our objectives will overlap and we will not need to proceed with a ballot measure,” he said. “We thank the Governor and the legislature for taking up this important work and are pleased to lend our voice of support to these efforts.”

In a follow-up statement a few hours later, Kopp struck a more favorable tone.

“While we are eager to get into the details of the proposals, it’s clear that a tremendous stride was taken today,” he said. A spokesperson for his group added that they aren’t pulling down the ballot initiative until meaningful reform is signed into law, but that they are “very optimistic.”

Not all advocacy groups shared the aim. In a joint statement, United for a New Economy Executive Director Carmen Medrano and Colorado Education Association President Amie Baca-Oehlert accused Polis and lawmakers of working “to give some of the richest and most powerful special interests fiscally irresponsible, inequitable property tax cuts.”

“We can’t let rich and powerful special interests cut backroom deals while hardworking Coloradans and their families struggle to afford rising costs,” they said in the statement. “This is just another reason why more and more people are calling for a smarter, fairer tax code that asks the wealthy to pay their fair share to fund education, affordable housing, and an economy that works for all of us.”

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