DENVER — The Colorado General Assembly’s special session ended on Monday after four days.
State lawmakers gave final approval to a package of bills, including legislation to address property taxes, TABOR refunds and emergency rental assistance.
Governor Jared Polis called lawmakers into a special session after voters rejected Proposition HH earlier this month. The governor asked lawmakers to send him a bill that provides property tax relief.
Both chambers passed a Democratic bill that reduces the residential assessment rate from 6.765% to 6.7% and increases the portion of property value that homeowners would not have to pay taxes on from $15,000 to $50,000.
To make up for the reduction in property tax revenue, the bill directs $200 million from the general fund to be sent to backfill school districts and local governments.
“I am glad that we are helping people like the senior citizens in my district who've owned their homes for decades and are struggling to get by on a fixed income from being overly burdened by increased property taxes,” said State Rep. Javier Mabrey, D-District 1.
The Democratic majority also pushed through a bill that Mabrey sponsored, which equalizes TABOR refunds for all Colorado taxpayers, regardless of their income.
“This bill critically puts more money in the pocket of 61% of Coloradans. For those on the lowest part of the income scale, those whose income is less than $51,000 a year, they’re going to see an extra $213 if they’re individual filers or $426 if they’re filing jointly,” said Mabrey.
Lawmakers also sent a bill to the governor providing an additional $30 million in emergency rental assistance.
“The housing crisis is impacting us all, and we must utilize every opportunity to help out hardworking renters," said State Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-District 34, who was one of the sponsors of the bill. “We hear Coloradans loud and clear: we love our state, but the rising cost of living and housing is making it hard for working folks to get by — both for homeowners and renters. My bill directs $30 million in rental assistance to keep Coloradans housed and provides responsible relief to support Coloradans who need it most.”
All of the Republican proposals died in committee.
“I think it was kind of a travesty of what we came here to do and what the end result was,” said State Rep. Ryan Armagost. “I would've liked to have seen a unilateral bipartisanship. Unfortunately, our Democrat caucus was accusing us of not being bipartisan because we weren't signing onto their bills. But not only were they not willing to sign onto our bills, but they were killing them. They didn't even see the light of day out of committee.”
Republicans said the Democrats prioritized government growth over Coloradans.
“Saving Coloradans money and reducing their tax burdens should have been the number one priority for this special session,” said State Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, R-District 23. “Instead, it looks like the Democrats and Governor Polis used this as an opportunity to score some political points. Our bill was a real and honest solution that would have given the people of Colorado the tax relief they need.”
Lawmakers also expanded the state-earned income tax credit. Supporters said the bill would boost incomes by hundreds of dollars.
“Coloradans' budgets are stretched thin due to inflation and rising costs, with low-income earners being the most vulnerable to poverty and homelessness,” said State Sen. Chris Kolker, D-District 16. “The Earned Income Tax Credit is proven to put money back into the pockets of hardworking families and lift people out of poverty. With this bill, we can provide critical benefits to help those who need them most.”
Kolker sponsored the bill with State Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-District 28.
“Expanding these tax credits will put $185 million back into the pockets of hardworking Coloradans,” Fields said. “Colorado’s Earned Income Tax Credit especially helps families of color and renters — like those in communities I represent — so they can afford necessities like rent and groceries. This bill will improve equity and help those who are struggling to make ends meet.”
Lawmakers also approved legislation to ensure Colorado participates in a new federal summer lunch program for children, which starts next year.
Proceedings in the House were paused on Monday after State Rep. Elisabeth Epps joined pro-Palestinian protesters in the House gallery and refused to leave. Epps was frustrated with the House leadership for a variety of reasons.
Special Session Update: State Rep. Epps is sitting with pro-Palestinian protesters in the House gallery. State patrol ordered gallery closed. But they are refusing to leave. #coleg #copolitics @DenverChannel pic.twitter.com/7zF1Tq7wkN— Brandon Richard (@BrandonLRichard) November 20, 2023
Colorado State Patrol gathered outside the gallery during the standoff but did not physically intervene to remove Epps or the protesters.
After about an hour of negotiations between Epps and House leadership, the lawmaker and protesters left.
Lawmakers will return for the regular session in January, where they will likely deal with some of the same issues they addressed during the special session, as they try to find long-term solutions.