2023 Election, Columnists, Jon Caldara, Proposition HH, TABOR, Taxes, Uncategorized

Caldara: Odd bedfellows against the Proposition HH tax hike

(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)

I’m not the smartest guy around. Just check my Twitter feed (now called X) and you’ll see many, many of the most well-mannered people agreeing with me.

But I think I’m safe in saying if the teachers’ union is pouring gobs of money to pass a ballot question, it most definitely is not a tax cut.

Has the teacher’s union ever endorsed a tax cut?

When the ultra-leftist organization Progress Now endorses Prop HH, there’s a pretty good chance it ain’t a tax cut. Likewise, when have they ever endorsed a tax cut?

The always-tax-slap-happy Bell Policy Center is making sweet love to Prop HH saying, “The additional revenue for schools under Proposition HH will help Colorado students catch up with their peers across the country.”

You see, “additional revenue” is a tax increase, not a tax cut.

Even though Prop HH starts with the very seductive language, “Shall the state reduce property taxes for homes and businesses,” you can be sure it raises more taxes than it cuts. Turns out, a lot more.

You see, when the legislature puts a tax increase on the ballot, they can write it any way they like (that means lie) to tempt you to vote for it.

Indeed, HH gives the tiniest brief property tax relief (still with the highest property tax increase Colorado has ever seen) paid for by losing our TABOR tax refunds forever. So, I assumed many short-sighted business lobbying groups would support it, or at best stay neutral.

The Colorado chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), representing small businesses, the ones hardest hit by skyrocketing property taxes, did the arithmetic. Overwhelmingly their members screamed NO! They urge voting against HH.

Property tax is a larger line-item expense for these folks than for homeowners. If any constituency should have fallen for Polis’ bait-and-switch tax increase, it should have been them. But a knowledge of basic math is powerful.

Realtors are in the job of selling homes. Higher property taxes retard property sales. The easy call for the Colorado Association of Realtors would have been to rubber stamp HH. Yet they did not.

They too are urging you to vote no. Why? Because they know if you have more money in your pocket, you’ll have more money to buy a home. HH is the largest tax increase in Colorado history, and will put home ownership out of reach for generations to come.

And if that’s not obvious, that’s bad for realtors.

So, HH is a colossal tax increase. Therefore, governments throughout the state must love it!

The Colorado Municipal League, CML, represents the hundreds of city and town governments across the state. They must certainly adore HH. Except they don’t.

CML opposes it because, “Of the unnecessary constraints on municipal authority to provide appropriate localized property tax relief, and the restriction of municipal tax revenue.” That’s fancy talk for saying the state takes all the tax increase booty and doesn’t give it to them.

What about the other governments in Colorado? Counties must love HH? Again, nope. Colorado Counties Inc. (CCI), the group representing the county governments, came out with a big middle finger to HH as well.

So, which of Colorado’s thousands of governments wins with HH’s historic tax increase?

Well, the state government wins by finally ending our TABOR refunds forever in just a few short years and keeping all those billions of dollars (in exchange for a microscopic property tax “relief”). And some school districts win because the state will have more money to backfill their budgets. That’s about it.

Heck, the tiny governments in Colorado understand this hurts them. Even library districts are coming out against HH. Pikes Peak Library District just did because beyond the income tax increase, HH will reduce “the amount of funding to special districts, such as libraries throughout Colorado.”

Recent polling I’ve seen shows HH as a toss-up. As more people understand it’s not tax relief but the largest tax increase in Colorado history, it will collapse under its own weight. After HH fails the governor must call a special session to fix the property tax issue before the end of the year.

And oh, by the way, we need to stop the legislature from writing their own ballot language on referred measures where they can blatantly lie and call tax increases “tax relief.”

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


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