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Democrats march tax bills through special session

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(The Center Square) – Colorado lawmakers advanced several bills over the weekend as part of the special session to address property taxes.

The special session started on Friday after Colorado voters rejected Proposition HH, the measure Democrats referred to the ballot last session that would have lowered the state’s residential property tax assessment rate to 6.7% and backfilled lost revenue with Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds. County assessors say property values across the Denver metro area have gone up 35% to 45%.

The majority Democrats’ main property tax bill, Senate Bill 23B-001, passed the House Monday morning. The bill would lower Colorado’s residential assessment rate from 6.765% to 6.7% – the same decrease as Prop HH – and expand the property value exemption from $15,000 to $55,000.

The bill, which needs one more approval by the Senate, would allocate $146 million from the state’s general fund to the State Education Fund to cover for lost revenue, and $54 million for local governments.

“With the limited tools available to us, we’ve now set our sights on providing immediate property tax relief to those who are most vulnerable to the rising cost of living, while ensuring local governments – especially schools and fire districts – don’t face budget cuts,” bill sponsor and Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, said in a statement.

The Senate on Monday morning approved House Bill 23B-1001, which allocates $30 million from the general fund to a state grant program for emergency rental assistance.

“Renters in my district are struggling to keep up with the high cost of living and continual rent increases,” bill sponsor Sen. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, said in a statement. “Allocating additional funding for proven successful rental assistance programs means more Coloradans will stay housed.

Democrats on Monday also gave final passage to SB23B-003, which would make fiscal year 2022-23 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds all the same amount, rather than a six-tiered sales tax refund. The House needs to give final passage to the bill before it heads to the governor’s desk.

“Making life easier and Colorado more affordable is one of my top priorities at the Capitol, and equalizing TABOR refunds will do just that for our working families,” Sen. Janice Marchman, D-Loveland, said in a statement Sunday.

Democrats on Sunday passed a bill that, if signed, will expand Colorado’s earned income tax credit from 25% to 50% of the federal earned income tax credit. The bill would use $182.5 million from the TABOR surplus for FY 2022-23 to cover the EITC expansion, according to the most recent fiscal note.

All of the tax proposals by Republican lawmakers – who have been calling for a special session for months and introduced them after Prop HH lost – were defeated by the majority party.

Republicans criticized Democrats throughout the weekend for shooting down their bills.

“Forty-eight minutes and 19 seconds,” House Minority Leader Mike Lynch said during debate on HB23B-1001. “And that is the amount of time that [House Republicans’] ideas and our thoughts about how to fix this problem were alive in committee.”

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