Nov 9, 2023 - Politics

Colorado governor calls special session to address property taxes

In front of media cameras Gov. Jared Polis used a bat to break into this box to retrieve an executive order for a special session. Photo: RJ Sangosti/Denver Post via Getty Images

Just days after voters rejected his ballot measure, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recalled state lawmakers to the Capitol for a special session to craft a temporary fix for rising property taxes.

Driving the news: Polis, a Democrat, issued an executive order Thursday that states "there remains an immediate and dire need" after the failure of Proposition HH to provide relief for property owners.

  • The session will begin Nov. 17, and Polis is asking lawmakers to provide "the maximum amount of tax relief they can" in the current year to all residents.
  • He also requested that lawmakers create a study committee to look at long-term solutions for future years

Why it matters: Colorado homeowners and businesses face an average 40% increase statewide in property tax rates because of rising values.

Details: How much relief lawmakers can provide is limited by how much money they can find.

  • Proposition HH included $200 million in discretionary spending, but Polis is willing to tap money from the state reserves and dollars earmarked for TABOR refunds to cover the cost, he told John on Thursday.
  • He repeatedly declined to offer specifics on how much tax relief property owners can expect.

Catch up quick: The governor and Democratic lawmakers put themselves in this conundrum in 2020 by not offering a replacement for the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment, which capped residential property taxes and put a greater onus on businesses.

Between the lines: In his announcement, Polis maintained that a special session was the backup plan all along, and even pulled a stunt of attempting to break a glass box with a baseball bat to retrieve his executive order. The glass didn't break.

What they're saying: Democratic leaders at the Capitol welcomed the call to work, but suggested they may take the discussion in their own direction, directing tax relief to only lower-income property owners and renters.

  • "Our caucus will now be laser-focused on providing short-term relief to those who are most vulnerable to the rising cost of living – which means working families, renters, and those on fixed incomes – while protecting our schools and fire districts," Senate President Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder), who led the failed Prop. HH campaign, said in a statement.

The other side: Republican lawmakers — who called for a special session to address property taxes six months ago — said the whole situation was avoidable.

  • House Minority Leader Mike Lynch (R-Wellington) called for "common sense reforms … and not just a simple band-aid to a complex problem."

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