2023 Leg Session, Columnists, Gallagher Amendment, Gold Dome, Jon Caldara, Taxes, Uncategorized

Caldara: The great Colorado property tax scam explained

If you’ve opened your property tax assessment you’ve already had your coronary. Your property value has gone up between 30% and 70%.

That means because the legislature, under Democrat Gov. Bill Ritter, froze mill levy rates (preventing them from lowering) and because voters foolishly repealed the Gallagher Amendment in 2020, your property taxes are going to go up some 30% to 70% next year.

But don’t worry. The same people who have put you in this bind are going to pantomime rescuing you just as the clock runs out on their legislative session. What heroes.

The Colorado legislature, with Gov. Jared Polis riding on a white stallion, will look like they are saving you from the tax haul they skillfully masterminded. And the media will likely help them sell the con of getting you to pay (again) for what looks like property tax relief.

But let’s start the scam at the beginning. The theme, as always, is elections have consequences. That is the polite way of saying — hey idiots, you voted for this, would you please stop acting surprised.

The people of Colorado voted to repeal the Gallagher Amendment which capped property taxes for both residential and commercial property. Many conservatives irrationally supported the repeal because of a fair gripe they had with it — Gallagher hid taxes from voters.

You see, businesses don’t pay taxes. Only people pay taxes. Gallagher put most of the property tax burden on commercial property owners. Residential owners got unfairly low taxes, making them more friendly to voting “yes” to increasing mill levies for schools, roads, etc. Clever, huh?

But businesses must always pass their taxes to their customers. You’re paying King Soopers’ property tax in every loaf of bread you buy; it just doesn’t feel the same as your own property taxes.

But now both caps are gone, the low one for homeowner and the high one for commercial.

Why did the repeal pass? The ballot question the legislature wrote to repeal Gallagher was wildly duplicitous. It was the ugliest, shyster, slimy-used car-salesman-referred voter ballot title I’ve ever seen come out of that parliament of whores.

The first five words of this love sonnet, tax-hiking ballot question was, “Without increasing property tax rates.”

Without explaining that as their property assessments rose (but the tax rates staying the same) their tax amount would, duh, also rise. This led most unsuspecting voters to believe that their taxes wouldn’t increase.

The ballot’s siren song went on to say, “to help preserve funding for local districts that provide fire protection, police, ambulance, hospital, kindergarten through twelfth grade education, and other services, and to avoid automatic mill levy increases…”

So basically, the Legislature lied and said, “no tax increases to fund first responders, kids and puppies.”

Anyone with a calculator knew once homeowners realized they’re in for the largest property tax hike in state history, they’d be sharpening pitchforks. So why are Dems waiting until the very end of session to look like they’re going to do something about it?

Two reasons. First, theatrics. Waiting until folks get their property assessments and freak out, well, that gives them a planned fire to put out.

And secondly, with only days left in the session there’s less time to shine light on the shell game.

Property tax is a complex issue. Half the legislators aren’t up to speed on it and nearly all reporters will just regurgitate press releases on it.

With nearly $2 billion of excess tax revenue which by our state constitution, via TABOR, must be refunded to us, I suspect they will refund much of that to us by relabeling it as some sort of property tax relief.

This of course will make them look heroic with one small teensy-weensy, itsy-bitsy problem: it’s a complete lie. If tax relief comes from surplus revenue, it comes from our money which was to be returned to us anyway!

Slapping a label on it that says “property tax relief” doesn’t make it so. Taking it out of our tax refund check is still theft.

Real property tax relief would be passing a law to restrict property tax increases to inflation. They have the power to do that before property tax bills hit. In fact, it is the best way to fix the con job they have perpetrated on their victims, the trusting people who put them into office.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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