Denver mayor, city council agree to postpone carbon tax ballot proposal for further study

Final vote on issue had been set for Monday night
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Posted at 12:00 PM, Aug 26, 2019

DENVER – The mayor’s office and Denver City Council announced Monday they had reached an agreement after a weeks-long fight over a carbon tax ballot issue proposal and said the council will postpone a final vote that was set for tonight’s meeting in order to further study the issue for a possible 2020 ballot question.

The council had been set to take its second and final vote on the proposal, which if passed would have sent the carbon tax question to Denver voters in November.

The proposal had been criticized earlier this month by Mayor Michael Hancock and business leaders, along with some council members, for being hastily put-together in recent weeks. It mirrored a proposed ballot issue that proponents failed to get enough signatures for earlier this year.

The carbon tax would apply to commercial and industrial buildings in Denver. The measure had been paired with a proposal to establish an Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency.

But on Monday morning, Hancock and the council sent out a joint news release saying the mayor and the seven council members who had been supporting the carbon tax proposal had come to an agreement.

According to the council members and mayor’s office, the new proposal includes creating the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency and a new stakeholder process to look at the work the city is currently doing on climate change and what more can be done. That had been part of the initial proposal from the council, but that hearing will be delayed until Nov. 3, the council said.

But Council President Jolon Clark and the six other council members supporting the carbon tax measure agreed to table it for now as part of the agreement, according to Hancock and Clark. The city council said the carbon tax bill would be postponed until June 1, 2020.

“This new plan positions us to take this issue head on and work with our communities and stakeholders to create a clear path and identify the needed funding to take urgent and unprecedented action to reduce our greenhouse emissions,” Clark said in a statement.

The release says that under the agreement, members of the council and mayor’s administration will lead a formal process to look at the work the city is currently doing on climate change, look at funding needs and engage community members, experts and other stakeholders.

It said that process would inform the council of whether or not it should refer a possible ballot question to the November 2020 ballot.

The Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency would, under the agreement, be functional by next July 1 and will combine employees from the existing Office of Sustainability and Department of Public Health and Environment. It would report to the mayor.

The release said that Hancock also intends to propose $8 million more in funding for next year to battle greenhouse gas emissions.

Clark, who had been adamant about getting the proposal on the 2019 ballot in weeks prior, saying, “We don’t have the luxury of time,” in regard to pushing a question to 2020, seemed to have relented by Monday.

“Thanks to Denver Public Health & Environment, Denver is a known and recognized leader in the fight against climate change. But the science tells us we must move even more aggressively,” Hancock said in a statement. “That’s why I stand united with Council President Clark and members of the Council to lead with even more urgency while engaging our residents and stakeholders in crafting a Denver response to this global crisis.”

Resilient Denver, which proposed the carbon tax measure initially, said it was “encouraged” by the proposed agreement.

“We see a great opportunity to find an equitable path towards eliminating greenhouse gas emission while preparing Denver and its vulnerable populations for the negative externalities associated with climate change,” the group said in a statement.