Lawsuit challenges Colorado property tax bill before Gov. Polis signs it into law

Legislation to cut Colorado's property tax rate, paid for with Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds and awaiting Gov. Jared Polis’ signature, is being challenged in court.

Advance Colorado, a conservative advocacy group, and a private citizen filed a nine-page complaint in Denver County District Court. The complaint alleges that Senate Bill 303 contains at least four separate subjects, violating the Colorado Constitution. It also contends the bill's title doesn't "clearly express the subject of the bill and is misleading."

The legislation referred to the ballot Proposition HH, which proposes cutting residential property tax assessment rates from 7.15% to 6.7%. School districts and other local political subdivisions realizing losses in property tax revenue would be reimbursed by the state and paid for with TABOR refunds.

The complaint, first reported by The Denver Post, requests a cascade of actions against SB 303. First, it asks the court to declare the bill void as a matter of law. Second, if the court doesn’t void the bill, the complaint requests a portion of the bill voided as a matter of law. Third, if the bill isn’t declared unconstitutional and void, it requests the ballot language be changed “so that it does not unfairly mislead voters.”

Advance Colorado President Michael Fields told The Center Square more parties are likely to join the lawsuit once Polis signs the bill.

“This ballot measure clearly violates the single-subject provision in our Colorado Constitution,” Fields told The Center Square. “On top of that, the ballot language is unclear and misleading. Voters deserve to know that they would be giving up their TABOR tax refunds in exchange for very little property tax relief.”

Fields said the solution should be Polis calling a special session to address property taxes without touching TABOR refunds.

“Over time, we’re talking billions and billions of dollars that will disappear,” Fields said during an interview on KOA radio. “And that’s what we're trying to get across. We're trying to do a lawsuit to stop this to get the language changed. We're also trying to educate people about what this really means. The ballot language is not going to explain these things.”

The focus on property taxes started in late April as nine county assessors in the Denver metro area revealed property assessments increased 35% to 45%. Days later, Polis and legislators held a press conference announcing a November ballot measure to reduce property taxes.

If Prop HH passes, House Bill 23-1311 would eliminate the six-tier TABOR refund program and establish a flat refund beginning in the 2023 tax year for all eligible taxpayers.

If Prop HH fails, the six-tier system wouldn’t change. If voters approve Prop HH, taxpayers would see approximately a 23% decrease in their 2025 refund and reductions in 2023 and 2024.

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