DENVER — Colorado lawmakers returned to the state capitol on Friday for the start of a special session on property taxes.
Governor Jared Polis called for the special session after voters resoundingly rejected Proposition HH.
Polis is asking lawmakers to send him a bill that will lower costs for Coloradans who are facing 40 to 50 percent increases in their property taxes.
The Democratic proposaladvanced out of committees Friday. It would lower the residential assessment rate from 6.765% to 6.7% and increase the portion of property value that would be exempt from taxes from $15,000 to $50,000. However, the plan provides no additional relief for commercial property taxes.
“We really had to go back to the drawing board and figure out where we needed to prioritize property tax relief. And we felt like helping low and middle-income households was the right way to prioritize,” said State Sen. Chris Hansen, one of the bill’s sponsors.
Rising property taxes: How Polis wants to give Colorado homeowners relief
The plan directs $200 million to backfill local governments and schools that depend on property taxes. Most of the money — about $135 million — would go to school districts. The rest would be distributed to other local government entities.
Fire district representatives testified in support of the bill. Representatives for several local governments said they were neutral on the bill because they hadn’t had time to determine its impact on them.
“We're neutral on all these bills,” said Ann Terry, executive director of the Special District Association of Colorado, which represents over 2,600 local governments. “Some of them I haven't even seen yet.”
Democrats wasted little time killing proposals Republicans offered, calling some of those plans unserious.
Republicans accused Democrats of sneaking TABOR money away from taxpayers to finance their plans. Senate President Steve Fenberg said the bill does not take money from TABOR or the reserves.
Democrats say they are trying to beat the clock before counties finalize budgets and assessors finalize property tax bills in December.
Colorado lawmakers gear up for special session on property taxes
Measures that provide more money for emergency rental assistance and equalize TABOR refunds for all Colorado taxpayers also advanced out of committees.
“Making life easier and Colorado more affordable is one of my top priorities at the Capitol, and equalizing TABOR refunds will do just that for our working families,” said State Sen. Janice Marchman, D-Loveland. “This measure delivers relief for Colorado taxpayers and will make refunds more equitable while ensuring more support goes to the folks who need it most."
A bill setting up a new summer food program that could benefit up to 300,000 Colorado children also advanced. The governor asked lawmakers to pass legislation that would get the process moving in order to set that program up and meet a critical federal deadline.
Debate on the property tax relief bill and other measures is expected to run late Friday and resume on Saturday. The special session is expected to last three days.