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Endorsements roll in for Prop 120; TABOR author calls out state interference in property tax measure

DENVER — The list of endorsements asking for a yes vote on Proposition 120, a statewide ballot measure to reduce property tax rates, continues to grow as conservatives across the state come out in favor of the measure they say would save Colorado taxpayers $1.03 billion, while keeping legislators in check on their spending.

Although language in the state’s Blue Book is confusing voters about who benefits, how much money is retained for what purposes as well as what property taxes are subject to the decrease, high profile individuals and conservative organizations, current and former elected officials, as well as the author of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) are lining up in support of the proposition, telling Colorado voters not to be fooled by what they call deceptive tactics by the state.

Michael Fields

“As the author of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, I know what is pro-taxpayer,” said Doug Bruce in a recent email to his followers. Bruce brought the TABOR amendment to voters in 1992 as a tax and spend check on government. “The tax relief in 120 is for all taxpayers and totals one billion dollars, not a mere $45 million the lying politicians are claiming.”

Bruce was referring to a last-minute effort by the state legislature to pass Senate Bill 21-293, which put into law a temporary property tax measure aimed at derailing the citizen-initiated effort, but with much more complicated language and restrictions — including removing the decrease for residential single-family homes. The move by the Democrat-controlled house came just days after the Secretary of State’s office announced the measure made the ballot.

“You are being tricked by the Dems in the legislature,” Bruce said in the email. “I know more about petitions than anyone else in Colorado. No bill can rewrite a petition before the election. That is corrupt.”

The language written by legislative legal counsel describing Prop 120 in the Blue Book — a voter guide that is supposed to help clarify ballot measures — completely ignored the true wording of the proposition, said Michael Fields, who put Prop 120 on the ballot, in a recent Complete Colorado opinion piece.

“That language was approved by the Colorado Supreme Court before it was officially placed on the ballot,” Fields writes. “The legislature then passed a bill to try to thwart the ballot measure. They also sent out the Blue Book – which says the tax cut only applies to multi-family and lodging properties – hoping that it would confuse voters enough to get them to vote no.”

Doug Bruce

Under the actual language of Prop 120, property tax rates for all residential and commercial property would be reduced by 9 percent across the board, despite Blue Book language that says the reduction only affects multi-family housing and lodging units.

Bruce, also a former state representative, said the move by the legislature was deceptive.

“The politicians are trying to change the text of what people signed,” Bruce said in his email. “That is fraudulent. A petition comes from citizens, not politicians.”

The Blue Book definition also has some confused about what taxing entities are impacted, as well as concerned that it is an end run around TABOR because $25 million per year is retained for the Homestead Act.

“Proposition 120 would do nothing to undermine TABOR,” Fields said in his op-ed. “All it does is allows the state to retain $25 million for the Homestead Exemption for seniors and disabled veterans. However, currently, the first chunk of TABOR refund money already goes to the Homestead Exemption. Since the legislature has ignored the constitutional mandate to fund the Homestead Exemption on several occasions, this $25 million will help incentivize them to actually fund it.”

Likewise, the cuts only impact the state-retained portion of property taxes. Taxes by local governments, school districts and special taxing districts are not affected.

“Thankfully, the actual ballot language is what matters legally, not the Blue Book. If Prop 120 passes, we will take on the legislature in the courts to make sure everyone gets the tax cut that they voted for,” Fields said.

The growing list of conservative organizations and individuals endorsing a yes on Proposition 120 includes:

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