With bipartisan support for the $750 TABOR refund checks that are hitting mailboxes this month, you would think that liberal special interests would back off their push to go after that refund money in the future. But that’s not the case.
Colorado voters will see Proposition 123 on this November’s ballot. This “affordable housing” initiative would take $300 million of our TABOR tax refunds and put it toward a land-banking fund, concessionary debt fund, down-payment assistance program and grants to homelessness programs.
It sounds complex because it is complex. Instead of pursuing simpler solutions, supporters of this measure want voters to approve a plan that is expensive, uncertain and confusing.
With inflation over 8% and gas prices over $4 per gallon, families need their TABOR refund money this year and in upcoming years. Democrats, including Gov. Polis, have been celebrating these TABOR refund checks since the beginning of the legislative session. The money also comes at a time when the state government is bigger than ever. Our state budget is now $38.1 billion — growing by over $1.5 billion per year. Fees continue to skyrocket, including a new fee on deliveries and ride-shares that started last month.
Instead of a government-run top-down approach, there are three things we could do now to help make housing more affordable.
First, we need to increase supply. The state of Colorado estimates a statewide housing deficit of 225,000 units.
Despite this, 35 counties didn’t issue enough building permits in 2021 to meet future needs. These localities should focus on fast-tracking approval for zoning. Basic economics tells us that if we increase supply, costs go down. We simply need to unleash the free market.
Second, we should cut unnecessary costs and regulations. For example, after the Marshall Fire, new construction codes increased the cost of rebuilding the same exact house by $20,000-$30,000. Colorado also has some of the highest “tap fees” in the country. In Pueblo West, it costs over $20,000 just to connect a new build to the water supply. In Aurora, it’s over $25,000. Revisiting these types of policies should be a top priority.
Third, we need to cap property taxes. As the values of homes continue to rise, so do property taxes. This hurts seniors and people on fixed incomes the most. Just this year, property taxes are set to increase by $1,000 for the average family. Capping the amount that property taxes are allowed to go up each year would ease some of the burden for Coloradans across the state.
It’s also important to point out that Proposition 123 is a statute, which means the legislature could take the $300 million that voters approve and spend it on anything they want. There are no guarantees in this measure, and voters should be very skeptical that a bait-and-switch could occur in the upcoming legislative sessions.
To put it simply: there is nothing “affordable” about taking $300 million of our TABOR tax refunds for a flawed housing measure. To fix our state’s housing crisis, we need to build more, not tax more. Coloradans are struggling and they want their full TABOR refund in future years.
Michael Fields is a Senior Advisor to Advance Colorado Action.
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