Colorado lawmakers approve property tax plan on final day of 2024 legislative session

The plan was sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers but it likely won't end the property tax debate.
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Posted at 6:26 PM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-09 13:50:31-04

DENVER — On the last day of the 2024 legislative session, Colorado lawmakers gave final approval to a bipartisan plan on property taxes.

The Colorado House approved Senate Bill 24-233 by a vote of 57-6. The Colorado Senate approved the same bill by a vote of 33-2 a day earlier.

The legislation, which was sponsored by Democratic and Republican lawmakers in each chamber, will soon be sent to Governor Jared Polis, who is expected to sign the legislation, given that his office was involved in crafting it.

"I think both Republicans and Democrats are in full agreement that this is the best path forward,” said Scott Wasserman with the Bell Policy Center.

The bill would, among other things, allow homeowners to exempt 10% of the first $700,000 of their home’s value. While supporters call it a tax cut, it's really designed to keep sky-high property taxes in check.

“The entire job was to slow the growth of your property tax bill, even as your property tax bill goes up,” said Wasserman. “Property values grow over time. Your property value goes up and your property tax bill goes up.”

Wasserman said the average homeowner would save hundreds of dollars compared to what they would pay if the bill didn’t pass. Michael Fields with Advance Colorado said the bill won’t provide the relief homeowners are looking for.

“It allows for growth and growth and growth in property taxes,” said Fields. “We've waited four years for a long-term solution. This is definitely not it.”

He’s proposing a two-part alternative through the initiative process.

Initiative 50 would limit property tax revenue growth and require voter approval for the state to retain any amount over that limit.

Another proposal, Initiative 108, would cut property tax revenue to local governments. It would reduce property tax revenue to local governments by $3 billion in 2025, according to a fiscal summary prepared by the Legislative Council Staff.

“Most of the lost property tax revenue, about $2.25 billion, will be reimbursed by the state government. About $800 million in lost school district revenue will be made up through state aid for total program funding for school finance as required under current law, and the measure requires that about $1.45 billion be paid by the state to fully reimburse local governments other than school districts,” the fiscal summary said. “The remaining $750 million reduction is estimated to occur in school district revenue streams other than total program revenue and will not be reimbursed.”

“Our measures are two pages long,” said Fields. “They cut and cap property taxes, very simple.”

Initiative 50 has qualified for November’s ballot. Fields said he was still gathering signatures for Initiative 108.

Wasserman said the proposals being pushed by Fields and Concern Colorado, a group of business leaders, would hurt local services.

“The reality is that these issues are not simple,” said Wasserman. “I think it's the difference between pragmatic solutions coming out of the Capitol from people who work on this stuff and are trying to deliver relief, and then ideologues who are just writing bumper stickers on ballot measures and hoping that the voters fall for it.”

Wasserman said the initiatives conservative groups are pushing are similar to a path California took with the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978. Critics of Prop 13 say it created a fiscal nightmare in California by gutting local budgets and harming schools.

“What happened in California is precisely what we're trying to avoid here in Colorado,” said Wasserman. “Initiative 50 and Initiative 108 will most definitely Californicate Colorado.”

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