Current Colorado lawmakers want to slowly increase local school district property taxes without a vote. They say it doesn’t violate the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights because a generation ago voters agreed to higher rates and state officials improperly lowered them.
This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
Democratic lawmakers are asking the Colorado Supreme Court to decide whether a proposed tax change that could generate millions for K-12 education is constitutional.
Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights typically requires voter approval for tax increases. This proposal would gradually increase local school district property taxes without a vote under the premise that voters a generation ago agreed to higher rates and that state officials improperly lowered them.
On Friday, after giving initial approval to a bill to phase in higher local tax rates over 19 years, senators took the unusual step of sending what’s called an interrogatory seeking the opinion of the state’s highest court. Republicans Sen. Kevin Priola of Brighton and Bob Rankin of Carbondale joined Democrats in what was otherwise a party-line vote on the resolution.
Supporters hope to get a clear answer before the end of the legislative session and include the prospect of additional revenue in the 2021-22 budget. New local taxes would generate more than $90 million next year and could bring in the equivalent of around $288 million a year when they’re fully implemented.
Supporters believe previous case law indicates the court would agree with their interpretation. Legal experts have said the decision could go either way.
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