(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)
Proposition HH will fail at the ballot box.
After it does, Gov. Jared Polis will call a special session before the end of the year to address the property tax crisis he created.
He will have little choice.
There are few things more enjoyable than watching Jared Polis not answer simple questions.
At the 9News/Gazette debate last week, he played Olympic-level dodgeball when asked several times if he would call a special session if Prop HH fails.
It wasn’t a trick question. It wasn’t a hard question. It wasn’t an essay question. But it’s always responded to with performance art. Never a “yes” or “no.”
His opponents asked him several times. Finally, the moderator, Marshall Zelinger put it to him point blank, “Governor, what’s your Plan B if HH fails?”
The man can dance like Fred Astaire.
In fairness, if he said he’d call a special session, he’d give voters even more reasons to vote HH down and get a much better special session deal (which will happen). So, he can’t really admit it publicly, but he knows it privately. And so do the rest of us.
Jared Polis will be personally responsible for this property tax debacle and HH’s failure. No one else will be answerable.
That’s not a great look for a man who is cultivating a national image as a business-friendly, tax-cutting, libertarianish Democrat governor. Particularly injurious for one who might want to be considered for higher office, say if President Joe Biden decides not to run, or can’t run, in 2024.
George H. Bush will always be remembered for, “Read my lips, no new taxes.”
Without a special session, Jared Polis will be remembered for, “I raised your property taxes 50% and then did nothing to stop it.” Poor guy, just didn’t have the leadership to fix it, even though his party had a supermajority. History isn’t kind to politicians like that.
Jared Polis is many things. Stupid ain’t one of them. There will be a special session.
When it becomes obvious voters don’t want HH’s massive tax increase, and they never voted to raise their own property taxes about 40% to 50% in the first place, Polis knows pitchforks, torches and history books won’t be far behind if he doesn’t do something to repair the chaos he caused by arrogantly signing HH into existence and considering no other options.
At the debate, he was shameless enough to call Colorado’s economy the “Polis economy.” Wonder if he’s driven around in the “Polismobile?”
So, the choice in front of him will be to watch families crumble under the crushing burden of stifling 40% to 70% property tax hikes this spring in the Polis economy, knowing he will be personally and accurately blamed for it.
How did he make this crisis? He and his legislature had two years to replace the Gallagher Amendment, which adjusted residential property assessment rates downward when property values went upward to keep our property taxes level.
When HH fails, the property assessment rate locks in at the current rate at the end of this calendar year. So, next year when you get your property tax bill in the spring it will go up as high as your property evaluation went up.
If you’re county assessor said your property value went up by, say 50%, congratulations, your tax bill will go up 50% (Honestly, it’s not much better if HH passes as it still goes up like 47% — but it’s enough for a “political” victory).
You see, here’s the reality: Coloradans are in for the largest property tax increase in state history whether or not HH passes. Should it pass, the property tax increase will be a little less than it would if it doesn’t.
HH brings down the state assessment rate for property tax a teeny-weenie, itsy-bitsy, little bit in exchange for losing our TABOR refunds forever, making it the overall largest tax increase in Colorado history.
Instead of replacing Gallagher, he waited to the last moment of the last session two years later to introduce a bill to raise taxes, not lower them. And voters won’t fall for it. Not the rubes he thought.
To quote Kyle Clark from 9News when he did it, “The governor is a smart guy, I hope he doesn’t think the rest of us are dumb. … We aren’t dumb.”
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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