DENVER — Colorado lawmakers passed several pieces of legislation during their four-day special session that will impact nearly every resident, whether they own a home or not.
As a result of rising costs across the board, Gov. Jared Polis on Monday night signed a package of bills that he said will help, including a measure to limit property tax increases.
“I think what they did is very strong, immediate property tax relief,” Polis said. “And it was actually even more immediate relief than what Prop HH would have had.”
Proposition HH was the ballot measure Polis and Democrats put in front of voters earlier this month, arguing it would reduce property taxes over the long-term.
Voters rejected it by nearly 20% points.
But the package of bills Polis signed into law Monday reduce the residential assessment rate from 6.765% to 6.7%. They also increase the portion of a home's value not subject to taxes, from $15,000 to $55,000.
How much an individual homeowner saves depends on where they live and the value of their home, but lawmakers said most homeowners can expect to save a few hundred dollars.
“That's real money for a lot of people that are struggling, for people on fixed incomes, for seniors,” said Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder.
However, many homeowners will still likely pay more than last year due to rising property values. The bills the governor signed simply limit that increase.
The governor suggested property owners could use next year’s TABOR refund, which is estimated to be $800, to help pay their property tax bills.
“With the property tax cuts and the approximately $800 [TABOR refund]…when you combine those two, for most Coloradans, that will actually cover more than any increase in their property taxes,” said Polis.
The governor also signed a bill into law Monday making TABOR refunds equal for every taxpayer, which they say will especially benefit renters and lower-income earners.
“That means more money for groceries. Maybe you can pay off a credit card payment, get a needed car repair,” said State Rep. Javier Mabrey, a Democrat who represents Denver and Jefferson Counties, and who sponsored the bill.
The legislative council staff said those who make less than $51,000 will see an increase of over $200 in their TABOR refund. Those who earn between $51,001 and $104,000 will see a $30 increase. Coloradans who earn more than $104,000 will see a decrease, with those earning over $309,000 seeing the biggest decrease in their TABOR refunds. A married couple earning just over $309,000 would see a decrease of $2,068 in their TABOR refund, staff said.
Critics of equalizing or flattening TABOR refunds said it amounts to a redistribution of wealth. Mabrey said it will benefit the majority of Coloradans, especially those struggling to make ends meet.
“This is a way to help people on the lowest side of the income scale,” said Mabrey.
Lawmakers also expanded Colorado’s earned income tax credit, which they say will help working-class people.
The governor signed that bill Monday as well, along with another measure to help the Department of Treasury support the tax deferral program next year.
Among the other bills lawmakers sent to the governor? A measure that will provide $30 million in additional emergency rental assistance to help people stay in their homes.
The governor did not sign that bill on Monday, but he is expected to, along with other bills the Democratic-controlled General Assembly sent him.
All of the bills that were sent to the governor were proposed by his party. All of the Republican proposals died in committee, including the GOP’s property tax relief proposal.
State Senator Barbara Kirkmeyer, R-Weld County, said it would have provided homeowners with greater property tax relief while giving flexibility to local governments.
“Saving Coloradans money and reducing their tax burdens should have been the number one priority for this special session,” said Kirkmeyer. “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.”