Nov 20, 2023 - Politics

Colorado tax relief package wins support in messy special session

Colorado tax refunds per filer under <span style="background:#009144; padding:3px 5px;color:white;">current law</span>  and <span style="background:#98f0c0; padding:3px 5px;color:#333335;">SB 23B-003</span>
Data: Legislative Council Staff; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

The Democratic majority at the Capitol strong-armed a tax relief package through a special legislative session that ended Monday after four days of controversy and political battles about Israel's war.

Driving the news: A bill signed by the governor hours after passage is designed to lessen the impact of rising property taxes by reducing the assessment rate to 6.7% and subtracting the first $55,000 in a primary home's value.

  • A separate measure that is now law adjusted the size of the TABOR refund for the current tax year to a flat $847 per individual, or $1,694 for joint filers. The shift gives 60% of taxpayers more than they would expect, and higher-income earners hundreds less.

By the numbers: A lack of discretionary cash limited the amount of property tax relief lawmakers supported.

  • The property tax relief bill amounts to an 8% tax cut, a statewide average of roughly $200 for a median priced $550,000 house, the Colorado Sun found.

The big picture: The focus of the special session was property tax relief after the failure of Proposition HH in the November election. But Democrats used the opportunity to tweak the tax code to help lower-income earners and those struggling to pay rent.

Zoom in: Another new law in the six-bill package will tap $183 million in Taxpayer's Bill of Rights refunds to expand the earned-income tax credit for those families with combined income below $64,000.

  • One other bill, set for the governor's signature soon, would increase rental assistance to $65 million for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

What they're saying: In signing the bills, Gov. Jared Polis said the legislation will "help those who need it most."

Of note: The end result didn't come easy.

  • In the opening hours Friday, the GOP — whose proposals for larger tax relief were rejected — invoked procedural rules to delay lawmaking.
  • The debate then turned testy when a Republican lawmaker suggested the rental assistance dollars didn't have enough guardrails and could be used to "buy cocaine all day."

The intrigue: Tempers flared repeatedly through the weekend as Israel's military operation in Palestine became part of the political spectacle.

  • State Rep. Tim Hernandez (D-Denver) replaced the American flag on his desk with a Palestinian one.
  • Pro-Palestinian protesters shouted "blood on your hands" from the gallery down to lawmakers Saturday before they were removed.
  • Rep. Elisabeth Epps (D-Denver) unsuccessfully attempted to insert an amendment relating to the Israel-Hamas conflict into a bill about a summer lunch program before her own party shut her down.
  • Epps ranted on social media about her colleagues and disrupted the session Monday by shouting from the balcony, where she was sitting with pro-Palestinian protesters.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to show Colorado's governor signed the tax relief bills passed during the special session.

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