Apr 6, 2022 - Business

How to address rising property taxes in Colorado is a messy debate

Illustration of a voting booth with a roof on it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Stop us if you've heard this one before: Colorado leaders agree something needs to be done, but they can't agree on what to do.

What's new: The issue is property taxes.

  • Lawmakers and advocates acknowledged they are at an impasse on how to address an issue with billion-dollar consequences.
  • "What you're seeing is a population of ideas to fill this vacuum, and I think it's a mess," said Bell Policy Center's Scott Wasserman.

Why it matters: Residential and commercial tax bills are rising exponentially with corresponding increases in housing valuations, generating concerns about affordability and gentrification.

  • But property taxes help fund schools, fire districts and local government initiatives β€” the programs most visible from our own front yards. So any change would likely affect them.

State of play: The debate is headed toward the November ballot for the third straight year, as outside organizations seek to remedy what the Democratic-led state Legislature has been unable to resolve.

The potential measures include:

  • A 3% limit to property valuation increases backed by Colorado Concern, a prominent business advocacy organization.
  • A 2% annual cap on property tax hikes pushed by conservatives activists.
  • A special tax for luxury homes and big businesses put forward by the liberal Bell Policy Center.

Between the lines: Colorado lawmakers are attempting a grand compromise β€” or at least a temporary one β€” to prevent a collision of conflicting measures.

  • The $36.4 billion state budget being debated sets aside $200 million, which could be used to extend existing property tax breaks or create new ones.

John's quick take: In eight years of tracking this issue, I've never seen such a lack of direction at this point in an election year.

What to watch: With the session entering its final weeks, legislative leaders still have no idea what will take shape.

  • "The question is how can we get to the sweet spot so a ballot initiative doesn't have to be considered this fall," says Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City). "I think the challenge is that no one knows who we are negotiating with anymore."

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