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Poll: Support for Colorado property tax initiative falls when voters learn details

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(The Center Square) – A poll of Colorado voters found 54% favored Proposition HH, a measure to reduce property taxes and replace lost tax revenue with Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds.

However, when the survey’s 662 probable voters in the November election were informed of state and local policies that would go into effect if the initiative passed, support declined to 43%.

Magellan Strategies, a research firm serving local governments and school districts, paid for and conducted the poll. David Flaherty, the chief executive officer and founder of Magellan Strategies, said the survey creates awareness for his company and emphasized it wasn’t funded by any political entity.

“That’s the straight, honest truth,” Flaherty said in an interview with The Center Square. “We paid for it, and we’ve done that before. And, honestly, with the complexity of Proposition HH, we couldn’t resist because it’s a Rubik’s Cube of outcomes.”

When assessors across Colorado warned of substantial increases in property taxes throughout the state, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 23-303 to give voters an opportunity to reduce property taxes and backfill revenue losses with TABOR refunds. Before the bill was signed into law, Advance Colorado, a conservative advocacy group, filed a lawsuit alleging the ballot item is misleading, and its multiple areas of impact violated the state constitution. The case is before the Colorado Supreme Court.

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 current six-tier refund system will remain.

Flaherty, who worked for Republicans in Washington, D.C. from 1992 to 2006 and founded Magellan in 2007, said the initiative provides platforms for both sides of the political spectrum to gain a foothold with voters.

“There’s so many avenues for the left or the right, or as we like to call it, the masters of the universe with all the money to try to pass this or kill it,” said Flaherty, who plans another poll in October. “There’s so many things voters can be educated and informed about to push them one way or the other.”

The negative responses toward the initiative after learning details about its effects surprised Flaherty.

“Among the supporters, I did not expect that sort of a wet-blanket drop in support of 10% across most major subgroups, including homeowners,” Flaherty said.

Magellan’s report stated although Prop. HH ballot language “is relatively easy to understand, its approval would have far-reaching policy and funding implications for every local government, school district, property owner and taxpayer in Colorado.” The questionnaire was designed to include “uninformed” and “informed” ballot questions.

Flaherty gave an example of a voter who’s a retired homeowner and reviewing the initiative after the house they purchased increased in value from $250,000 to today’s value of $550,000.

“That’s really hitting them in the wallet,” Flaherty said. “Are they going to overlook some things if they happen to be conservative? So while I’m surprised in the 10% drop in support, at the same time, it goes from a slight majority to knowing all of these things and they’re opposed for a myriad of reasons, depending on the voter’s profile.”

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