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Opponents of Colorado's property tax ballot measure call it "deceitful"

Proposition HH could reduce property taxes but some say it's controversial
Proposition HH could reduce property taxes but some say it's controversial 03:27

On the same day Gov. Jared Polis signed a property tax relief bill into law, more Colorado counties joined a lawsuit challenging the measure, which needs voter approval.

They say Proposition HH is unclear and unconstitutional.

When voters get their ballots in November, this is the question they will see:

"Shall the state reduce property taxes for homes and businesses, including expanding property tax relief for seniors, and backfill counties, water districts, fire districts, ambulance and hospital districts, and other local governments and fund school districts by using a portion of the state surplus up to the Proposition HH cap as defined in this measure?"


Michael Fields with the conservative group Advance Colorado says the ballot language is purposefully deceitful. "This is labeling it like, 'There's money sitting there. Let's give some property relief. Doesn't that sound great?'"

What Proposition HH calls "state surplus," most Coloradans call "TABOR refunds." Fields says those refunds would disappear over time if the measure passes. It changes the formula used to determine how much money the state can keep, raising the cap by billions of dollars over the next 10 years while giving what Fields says is a slight reduction in property taxes. The state assessment on residential property would drop from 6.76 to 6.7.

But, like the word TABOR, those numbers are nowhere in the ballot language.

"There's never been a tax cut on the ballot that didn't have numbers in it that showed it's coming from this rate to that rate," Fields says. "In the long run, there is no doubt that we're gonna lose more money."

He says, not only is the ballot measure not clear, it's unconstitutional in that it deals with more than one subject. "We're saying, 'Look, you're going put something on the ballot that pairs something that is unpopular — taking our TABOR refunds — with something that is popular — property tax relief. Then, those should be in separate bills. They're going to try make this look, 'This is your only option. If you want any relief, do this. Give up your TABOR refunds.' But this is really a play at TABOR more than it is a property tax bill."

Fields notes, if the legislature wanted to reduce property taxes, it could do that without voter approval. It only needs voters to change TABOR.

He says there's also a double standard for citizen initiatives versus those referred by the legislature. He is trying to get a measure on the ballot that would cap property tax increases at 3%, and he says, unlike Proposition HH, he was required to include estimates of lost revenue to special districts, schools and local governments. 

Twelve counties have now signed onto the lawsuit. The governor's office wouldn't comment on active litigation.


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