Colorado Special Session Passes Democrat-Led Property Tax Bills

Property taxes have doubled for some Colorado residents, as Democrat legislators look to fundamentally change the state's taxpayer bill of rights.
Colorado Special Session Passes Democrat-Led Property Tax Bills
Colorado House chambers during the special session on Nov. 17, 2023. (Katie Spence/The Epoch Times)
Katie Spence

DENVER—Next year, Erin Meschke's property taxes in Boulder, Colorado, will increase by almost $14,000, she told state senators at a committee hearing during Colorado's special session.

Ms. Meschke, along with five other Colorado residents, spoke in favor of Republican State Senator Kevin Van Wrinkle's two-page Senate Bill 23B-006, which proposes capping the actual value of property used for purposes of valuation at 6 percent between 2022 and 2023.

"My property taxes went up from $12,500 last year to the projected amount of over $26,000 for next year," Ms. Meschke said.

"So, this kind of a cap is actually going to greatly help not only me but other people who are in similar positions. I heard that the average … increase was somewhere over 40 percent for people in Colorado. And I just feel like this is a simple solution, and we should pass it."

Kim Munson, the president of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, agreed and urged committee members to vote for SB 6.

"As the president of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, we recommend a 'yes' vote on this particular proposal, this bill because it does give tax relief to the hard-working people of Colorado," Ms. Munson said.

"We're very concerned with these massive tax increases that, ultimately, many Coloradans will be taxed out of their homes. And so, when we talk about affordability of housing in Colorado, one of the first things we need to do is make sure that we have property taxes under control."

There was no voter opposition to Mr. Van Wrinkle's bill, however, the bill failed on a party-line vote of 4–3 and was postponed indefinitely.

Partisan Politics

After Colorado voters rejected Proposition HH at the ballot box on Nov. 6 by a vote of 60 percent to 40 percent, Colorado's Democratic Gov. Jared Polis called for a special session to address skyrocketing property taxes. Prop HH was a measure to reduce property taxes by gutting Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR.
During a Nov. 9 press conference, Mr. Polis urged lawmakers to come together and propose bipartisan solutions.
Joining the defeat of Mr. Van Wrinkle's bill were all five other Republican bills and one bipartisan bill, none of which made it out of committee. Meanwhile, Democrat bills are making it to the floor for House and Senate consideration—of the 14 bills introduced, the seven bills sponsored by Democrats moved to the floor.

When asked about her failed bill after a committee hearing, Republican Colorado State Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer told The Epoch Times, "It's what I expected."

If passed, SB23B-004, "Property Tax Relief," would have, among other initiatives, reduced the valuation for residential assessment to 6.5 percent for the tax year 2023. But the bill failed along party lines in a 4–3 vote.
Republican Rep. Stephanie Luck echoed Ms. Kirkmeyer's sentiment regarding the expectations for her bill. She introduced House Bill 23B-1006, "Creation of Tax Code Task Force," which, if passed, would have looked at restructuring the tax code in Colorado.

"The revolutionized tax code would eliminate all forms of taxes other than a state sales tax. So that would eliminate income tax," Ms. Luck told The Epoch Times. "It would eliminate property taxes; it would eliminate your delivery fees and your gas taxes and every type of tax and fee that the state and its sub-parts—the local jurisdictions, counties, cities, you know, special districts, that they all collect—and create a statewide sales tax."

Of her bill defeat, Ms. Luck said she was glad that she was able to introduce it because doing so at least got a conversation started. Although one Democrat, state Rep. Elizabeth Epps, voted in favor of the bill, it failed 6–4.

Property Taxes and TABOR

Thanks to TABOR, the state constitutional amendment requiring voter approval for tax increases, Colorado voters have a certain measure of control over taxes. Additionally, TABOR says if taxes are collected in excess of what TABOR allows, it should be returned to Colorado taxpayers.

However, in years past, Democrats have used what should have been taxpayer refunds to fund other initiatives—in 2022, Democrats partially refunded money through an income tax reduction and an expansion of the senior and disabled veterans homestead property tax exemptions.

 Special session hearing at the Colorado State Capital, on Nov. 17, 2023. (Katie Spence/The Epoch Times)
Special session hearing at the Colorado State Capital, on Nov. 17, 2023. (Katie Spence/The Epoch Times)

In the special session, Democrats want to take a similar approach, against fierce Republican opposition.

House Bill 23B-1002, "Increased Earned Income Tax Credit 2023," has passed the House and will go to the Senate for consideration. If passed, the bill allows individuals, including "a resident individual who does not have a social security number valid for employment"—meaning an illegal immigrant—to claim an increased income tax credit from 25 percent to 75 percent, using TABOR refunds.
Democrat Rep. Javier Mabrey wrote about the bill on X, previously Twitter, saying it would be a state program to match the federal earned income benefit.

"[Colorado] provides matching funds to this program, we do not dollar for dollar-for-dollar matches but instead provide a % match and at a 25% match a single filler could receive an additional $125, families with one child an additional $998 and families with three children $1857.50," Mr. Mabrey wrote.

Senate Bill 23B-003, "Identical TABOR Refund," is currently under consideration in the Senate. If passed, it would give every taxpayer in Colorado an identical TABOR refund regardless of how much excess they've paid in taxes.
House Bill 23B-1008, "Appropriation for Department of Treasury," has passed the House and is headed to the Senate. If passed, it will set aside $87,910 to the Department of the Treasury to "support the administration of property tax deferrals for the 2023 property tax year as part of the property tax deferral program."
Senate Bill 23B-001, "2023 Property Tax Relief," is currently under consideration in the Senate. If passed, it'll reduce the residential property tax valuation from 6.765 percent to 6.7 percent for 2023 and reimburse local governments using the general fund.

The special session must conclude before the Thanksgiving holiday, but lawmakers have expressed a desire to end as soon as Nov. 19.

On Nov. 18, the special session was briefly interrupted by pro-Hamas activists shouting from the gallery and urging lawmakers to impose a ceasefire.

Ms. Luck, who was in the chamber, told The Epoch Times that after the activists hd been escorted from the building, House Speaker Julie McCluskie, a Democrat, allowed members to leave the chamber during third readings (a break from procedure) to “speak to the protestors and hear them out.”

Katie Spence covers various topics, focusing mainly on energy and politics for The Epoch Times. She has also covered medical industry censorship and collusion with government. Before starting her career as a journalist, Katie proudly served in the Air Force as an Airborne Operations Technician on JSTARS. She can be reached at: [email protected]