Denver, Mike Krause

Measure 2A: Denver’s proposed permanent property tax increase just more war on the poor

Government wages war on the poor when politicians promote laws and policies that enrich and empower bureaucracies and/or special interests, the cost of which falls hardest on low-income wage earners and those living on modest fixed incomes. A 50-dollar ticket for a street sweeping violation in Denver, a full day’s wages for someone making at or near a minimum wage, is war on the poor. The infamous Cash for Clunkers subsidy program, which removed thousands of low-priced cars from the market, shrinking supply and driving up the price of remaining “affordable” used vehicles, is war on the poor. Government green-energy mandates paid for through higher fees and taxes on electric bills is war on the poor.

And Denver’s Measure 2A is more war on the poor.

Measure 2A would, among other things, remove property tax revenue limitations imposed by Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), resulting in a forever property tax increase for Denver property owners. While this means more money for the city bureaucracy, it also means higher rents for the working poor and less disposable income for homeowners on fixed incomes.

Writing at the blog, Joshua Sharf explains that not only are apartments and rental units taxed at the same rate as primary residences in Denver, but that rents are already rising as a result of the lowest rental vacancy rates in Decades. “In such a market, it would prove easy to pass the additional property tax on to renters,” concludes Sharf.

Passing along higher property taxes to renters would also be an entirely rational decision by rental property owners, who are not generally in the landlord business to lose money.

At an August Denver City Council hearing, an activist who goes by the name Seku from the Black Star Action Movement of Denver explained plainly and simply to council members how increasing property taxes would fall hardest on low-income renters:

This is a tax on the poor. You give back the money to the property owners, who I pay rent [to]; my rent goes up. ‘Cause, see them people…who own my building is a corporation. They ain’t about losing no money. And if they lose some money, and they give it back, then they’re gonna make us pay for it, it’s just that simple. Now I know when y’all came up with this, you didn’t have no poor people in the room to explain it to you, otherwise you would have nipped this in the bud.

Measure 2A would also fall hard on senior citizen homeowners living on fixed-incomes. Their property taxes will go up, while their income remains flat; a net-negative out of their pockets. The Hancock Administration tacitly acknowledges this in their proposal to spend the new tax money, which includes, “Increase the city’s property-tax credit from $186/year to $372 for 4,000 low-income senior citizens and persons with disabilities.”

Since this is new general fund money, there is absolutely no guarantee that this is what it will actually go towards (it’s called discretionary spending for a reason). Even so, what they leave out is that the tax credits for those 4,000 people will likely be paid for by other low-income and fixed-income senior citizens.

So Mr. Seku is quite correct in his economic assessment of the consequences of 2A. It is a tax on the poor. Worse yet, it is a tax on the poor to prop up the Denver city bureaucracy status quo.

It is a pretty safe bet that there were indeed no poor people in the room when Measure 2A was hatched.

 Mike Krause is a Denver property-owner and Vice-President of Operations at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver

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