(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)
The former head of the leftist ProgressNow Colorado, who is married to a U.S. congresswoman living in Jefferson County, has donated to the election campaigns of all three of the current Jefferson County commissioners.
So, what a coincidence those same Jefferson County commissioners, all Democrats, are now going to pay him $180,000 to help dupe taxpayers out of TABOR refunds.
As reported by the news site CompleteColorado.com (a project of Independence Institute, which I run), 7th Congressional District U.S. Rep. Brittany Pettersen’s husband, Ian Silverii, has just inked a spectacular deal from Jefferson County. His firm “won” a $340,000 contract, of which he personally gets $180,000.
The job? To strategize how to con those pesky, greedy little constituents of theirs to finally give up their TABOR refunds — forever.
Let’s for the moment put aside the ethical issue of a government using your taxpayer dollars to campaign to get more of your taxpayer dollars. Let’s also put aside the ethical question of cronyism in government contracting.
Let’s instead chat about how brilliant Jefferson County voters were to twice turn down this “de-Brucing,” the slang term for TABOR overrides, and why they will again.
When you get your property tax bills next month, you’ll wish all the districts you’re paying to didn’t de-Bruce, like Jefferson County.
Jefferson County’s elected elite is feeling left out of the party. Most all other districts, about 90% of them, in fact, have permanently de-Bruced. This allows them to keep the massive, massive, massive, massive windfall they’re about to get in their property tax hauls.
With property values going up some 50% to 75%, combined with repeal of the Gallagher Amendment (which used to basically lower property tax rates when property values went up), property taxes are going through the stratosphere.
Unlike most other big counties, Jefferson County will be forced to return that excess revenue, just like how the state must return its surplus tax revenue, you know, that $700 “Colorado Cash Back” check you got.
By voting not to de-Bruce, Jefferson County taxpayers saved themselves the full brunt of the property tax avalanche about to run them over. At least a portion of their property taxes will be coming back to them as refunds.
When TABOR was passed, it clearly said citizens of any district can vote to allow that district to keep excess revenue, above the rate of population growth and inflation, for up to four years. At that point, the district would have to ask the voters again if they still wanted to give up their tax refunds.
Sadly, the Colorado Supreme Court, which despises TABOR and rarely misses a chance to weaken it, ruled “four years” shall be treated as “forever,” I guess because they kind of sound the same.
Districts like Jefferson County will continue to ask for a TABOR override like a nagging 3-year-old demanding a cookie, because, if the voters say yes once, they never have to ask again.
So, play a “what-if” game with me. Now that Gallagher is gone as property taxes are skyrocketing, what if the four-year limit for TABOR overrides was still in effect?
That would mean all the districts, big and small, that next year will be awash in our money due to the property tax windfall would not be able to keep that money for more than four years. At that point voters would have a shot of reclaiming some of their money
Simply put, the devastation of repealing Gallagher would be greatly softened because every four years districts would have to give back the cash or ask their citizens if they could keep the booty.
It’s not peoples’ fault their property value goes up. It’s not as if they made more income. It’s not like the cost of governmental services have gone up more than inflation and population.
Property tax is legalized ransom. You want to keep your house? Pay us. In mafia terms it is call protection money.
Let’s bring back the four-year de-Brucing limit and let voters choose to get some of their ransom money back.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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