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Colorado General Assembly passes flat TABOR refund, contingent on Prop HH passing

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Joe Mueller

(The Center Square) – If Colorado voters approve a property tax measure in November, a bill awaiting the signature of Governor Jared Polis would create a flat Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refund.

Voters will decide whether to approve Proposition HH, a measure created by Senate Bill 23-303 that proposes cutting residential property tax assessment rates from 7.15

 percent to 6.7 percent. House Bill 23-1311, contingent on Prop HH passing, would eliminate the current six-tier TABOR refund mechanism and establish a flat refund beginning in tax year 2023 for all eligible taxpayers. If the initiative fails, the state would return to the six-tier refund system.

The refund would be approximately $661 for an individual taxpayer and $1,322 for those filing a joint tax return. Under the current structure, individuals would receive $639 and joint filers would get $1,278 if their adjusted gross income is between $50,001 and $100,000, according to a fiscal note. Both single and joint filers making more than $100,001 would see reductions in their TABOR refunds. Single filers making $279,001 and up would annually receive $773 less than their current refund and joint filers would receive $1,546 less.

House Republicans criticized the handling of HB 23-1311, noting it was introduced Saturday with less than 72 hours left in the legislative session and rushed through the Appropriations Committee without scheduled public testimony.

“If the Governor truly believed in his Property Tax scheme, he and the Democrats in the legislature should want it fully heard by Coloradans; not rushed at 8 o’clock on Saturday night or voted on quickly while they attend church on a Sunday morning,” House Minority Leader Mike Lynch, R-Wellington, said in a statement.

Colorado Senate Democrats said more than two-thirds of Coloradans, including all making less than $100,000 annually, would receive a higher TABOR refund.

“TABOR refunds should be equitable,” Sen. Nick Hinrichsen, D-Pueblo, said in a statement. “Flat TABOR refunds will ensure that hardworking Coloradans from all walks of life are supported fairly. We’re taking care of property owners through Prop HH, and this proposal will help give folks more financial freedom to fill up their tank, put food on the table, buy school supplies and pay their bills.”

If Proposition HH is passed, Polis’ office estimates the average homeowner would save approximately $1,264 in property taxes during the next two years. School districts and local governments losing tax revenue due to reduced property tax collections would receive state money to compensate for losses. The state would draw funds from TABOR refunds.

Some criticized the ballot initiative and the resulting TABOR reductions as unfair to renters. Property values increased in the Denver metro area by 35 percent to 45 percent, resulting in higher property taxes, according to county assessors.  

“We’ve worked hard to provide Coloradans immediate property tax relief through Prop HH that will save families across our state more than a billion dollars each year – but not everyone owns property, which is why we’re working to get them relief, too,” Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, and one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement. “This proposal will make TABOR refunds more equitable and directly benefit Coloradans by getting them bigger refunds when they’re needed most.”