Voters are receiving their 2023 Colorado ballots less than a month before Election Day on November 7, and most will be returning them well before that date. So, the sooner they come to understand the deceptive intent of Proposition HH the better. Unlike a “citizens initiative” which is prepared by an independent group that must obtain a requisite number of valid signatures on petitions, Prop HH is a ballot question “referred” by the state legislature. In this case, devised by the super majority of Democrats with the blessings of Governor Polis, a fellow Democrat. Not a single Republican in the state House or Senate voted for it.
A property tax tsunami is headed this way in 2024, with increases of as much as 60% in some counties. The deluge is driven by a double whammy of fiscal events. The first was in 2020 with the repeal of the the Gallagher Amendment which had limited property taxes since the 1980s. The knockout punch came with the surge in housing prices, driving up your assessed values. It’s nice that your home is worth more, but it doesn’t put any money in your pocket in the here and now if you’re not about to sell it. These extraordinary tax increases will feed the insatiable appetite of progressive Democrats for limitless government spending.
For the benefit of new arrivals to Colorado, a 1992 citizens initiative known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, was approved by voters as an amendment to the state Constitution. TABOR imposed limits on growth in state spending and required voter approval for tax increases. Ever since, when state revenues exceed state spending, that surplus is returned to Coloradans through an automatic tax refund.
Democrat politicians have always hated this limitation on their exorbitant spending desires, devising sneaky ways to get around it such as misrepresenting new taxes as “fees.” Proposition HH is their latest and most devious attempt that amounts to the equivalent of election fraud.
Democrats and their allies in the liberal media sugarcoat Prop HH as both a property tax cut and revenue raiser that will provide additional billions for public education, which is why the teachers union is behind it.
Prop HH is like a double-barreled shotgun with one barrel aimed back at taxpayers. The first barrel modestly lowers the assessment rate, but the second barrel is loaded with expenses that greatly exceed those reductions, raising state spending by 25% a year that adds an additional $2.2 billion over the next decade. The reduction in property taxes is immediately yanked back by decreasing your TABOR refunds now and in the future. Starting in 2025 and thereafter, TABOR refunds will be further reduced until they’re eliminated entirely.
Moreover, TABOR intended that individual refunds be based on each taxpayer’s adjusted gross income, so that those who paid more in taxes would justifiably get a proportionate refund. Under HH, all would get the same amount which makes this just another socialist device to redistribute income. That’s why it’s endorsed by the radical left-wing ProgressNow Colorado.
Higher home valuations also produce a revenue windfall for counties and other property-taxing districts that finance schools, water, fire-fighting, etc. These local entities could reduce their mil levies to offset rising assessed property values making this revenue neutral. But they prefer to keep the money rather than lessening the burden on taxpayers.
HH is a Trojan Horse built by scheming Democrats to turn a property tax problem into a political opportunity. On the outside is the appearance of property tax relief. On the inside is runaway government spending and higher income taxes in perpetuity. Perhaps they got the idea to couple one with the other from the State Farm Insurance ads featuring Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes who pitches “bundling” of home and auto insurance. By bundling the issues in this case into a complex and confusing ballot question — that takes 13 pages to explain in your 2023 State Ballot Information Booklet (the Blue Book) — Democrats are hoping voters’ eyes will glaze over.
It’s no accident that HH is on the ballot in November 2023, an odd-year election when voter turnout is low in the absence on the ballot of presidential voting, legislative seats, and statewide executive offices. Our single-party ruling Democrats are hoping to slip one by you. Proposition HH is such an obvious bait-and-switch scam that it insults the intelligence of voters.
The election outcome will stand as an IQ Test for Coloradans. Let’s hope they pass with flying colors.
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.
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