DENVER — Colorado Governor Jared Polis called a special legislative session to address the concerns of homeowners facing down skyrocketing property tax increases amid the defeat of statewide proposition HH during Tuesday’s election.
Polis announced the special session of the 74th general assembly would convene at 9 a.m. on Nov. 17 in an attempt to find relief targeting the 2023 tax year that property owners would pay in 2024.
“We need to act for short-term property relief now,” Polis said as he began Thursday’s press conference. “What has to happen in a week or two is any relief for the current tax year to homeowners has to be done now.”
Polis said he is urging legislators to find immediate relief for Colorado property owners facing large tax increases, specifically calling for the General Assembly to access $200 million in general funds already set aside as part of Prop HH, to use to offset some of the property tax increases.
“There’s $200 million to get out the door to cut property tax rates now, for this current year that we’re in,” Polis said. “On top of that, I’m hopeful that the General Assembly will agree on additional property tax reductions for the 2023 year.”
Polis did not provide any more specifics on how the $200 million could be used to offset the tax increases, but said the intent was to "give the legislature the room" to use the dollars to provide relief and he said the special session needed to convene sooner than later to allow time for local governments to issue property tax bills before year's end.
“The local assessors are waiting to implement whatever changes the legislator makes and whatever savings we can provide, and I hope they’re extensive, (but they) need to be done by Thanksgiving,” said Polis.
He insisted the special session would only target property tax relief for the current year and that more long-term strategies to address overall property taxes in Colorado would need to happen in the regular session. He also recommended a blue-ribbon panel be convened to determine longer-term strategies for homeowners struggling with skyrocketing property tax bills.
"During the general session, we hope that we can take on the bigger issue working in a bipartisan way to constrain the growth of property taxes or establish a thoughtful commission that comes out of this to come back with thoughtful recommendations about the best way to do that," said Polis.
Even before Prop HH was soundly defeated by voters, Colorado Republicans urged the governor to call the special session laying out three potential bills and on Thursday morning, House Minority leaders responded to the session.
“Coloradans have been bracing for months and have been asking for real and clean property tax relief,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Rose Pugliese in a press release. “We proposed bills during the regular legislative session to address this and then presented solutions once again when we called for the special session a few weeks back. Hopefully during this special session the Democrats will come to the table in good faith to provide real and clean property tax relief,” added Pugliese.
One proposal aimed at seniors in Colorado would double the current homestead exemption to $200,000, according to Joshua Bly, the communications director for Colorado Senate Republicans.
Republicans also propose lowering all assessment rates for residential and nonresidential properties, including dropping residential property assessment rates, from 7.15% to 6.7%, and exempting the first $50,000 in property assessment values, Bly said.
Nonresidential property assessment rates would decrease from 29% to 27.9%, he added.
While not directly tied to property tax relief, Colorado Republicans would also propose lowering the overall state income tax to 4% from 4.4%.
“We want property tax relief, but we don't feel we have to give up our TABOR refund check to get it. And we know we don't have to,” Kirkmeyer told Denver7 reporter Brandon Richard on Wednesday. “And I think they were sending a message: 'Legislature, Governor, whether you're Republican or Democrat, y'all need to get together and give us that relief, that tax relief that you've been promising.'”
The governor also announced he would use the special legislative session in an attempt to access additional funds for school lunch programs for Colorado children next summer.
“We have an opportunity to provide 300,000 Colorado children access to food and debit cards from the Department of Agriculture for the summer school lunch program during the summer of 2024,” said Polis. “This requires an immediate legislative action to meet the critical federal deadline that will bring around $35 million in benefits to low-income Colorado families with children next summer.”
On Tuesday night, Polis issued the following statement: “The Governor thanks everyone who voted in this year’s election. While he is disappointed voters didn’t pass a long-term property tax cut, he is currently considering next steps.”
Multiple sources told Denver7 Chief Investigative Reporter on Wednesday the Democrat-controlled legislature would work to find financial options and resources to decrease significant property tax increases facing all homeowners starting in January. The Executive Director for Colorado Democrats had no comment to questions from Denver7 on Wednesday.
I will provide an update on Colorado's response at 10:15 a.m. MST this morning. The livestream will broadcast from my official Facebook page @Governor Jared Polis pic.twitter.com/OBHlwFC1ZI— Governor Jared Polis (@GovofCO) November 9, 2023