Nov 7, 2023 - Politics

Proposition HH fails in Colorado, dealing huge blow to Democrats

Data: Colorado Secretary of State; Chart: John Frank/Axios

Colorado voters rejected Proposition HH in Tuesday's election by a significant margin, according to preliminary vote counts.

Why it matters: The measure's failure is a major blow to Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic lawmakers who hoped to trade a property tax cut for looser spending restrictions under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, known as TABOR.

By the numbers: Proposition HH received just 40% support, per the 5am ballot tally, with 60% in opposition.

  • The campaign supporting the measure acknowledged its defeat just before 8pm.

Catch up quick: The billion-dollar stakes tied to the proposition made it the marquee race in the odd-year election, drawing national big-moneyed donations.

  • Democratic allies — including nonprofits that don't disclose donors — raised about $3 million to back the initiative, the Colorado Sun reports. The campaign pitched it as the cure to a historic rise in residential property taxes coming in 2024 and the additional allowed state revenues as a boon for education.
  • The conservative opposition, led by Advance Colorado and Americans for Prosperity, collected roughly the same amount of cash and emphasized how it would reduce taxpayer refund checks under TABOR as the cost of living only increases.

What to watch: The measure's defeat raises the prospect that Democratic lawmakers may return to the Capitol for a special legislative session to address rising property taxes before the increases take effect in January.

  • It also gives ammunition to conservative groups who want to put forward their own property tax cut on the 2024 ballot — one that doesn't touch TABOR refunds.

What they're saying: "HH was a deceptive measure, crafted in secret, to give Coloradans a huge tax increase wrapped in tiny tax relief," Advance Colorado's Michael Fields said in a statement.

  • "Voters caught on, and [Tuesday night] they clearly said they deserve better."

The other side: "Prop. HH was a nuanced, balanced policy that appears to have fallen prey to a misinformation slogan campaign by the far right, who would prefer to cut property taxes on the backs of our schools and fire districts," replied Senate President Steve Fenberg, who led the campaign for the measure.

Of note: A second statewide ballot measure, Proposition II, easily cruised to victory with roughly two-thirds in favor.

  • The measure allows the state to retain $24 million in excess tobacco and nicotine tax revenues and continue to increase taxes in future years.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments from Steve Fenberg.

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