Colorado Democrats press agenda on property taxes, tangle with GOP over timing as special session begins

What was supposed to be a breakneck special session of the Colorado legislature instead turned to pure brakes Friday evening as the Senate’s majority Democrats battled with Republicans over rules that threatened to prolong consideration of bills by days.

The beginning of the special session chugged along for most of the day, as Democrats, who hold wide majorities in the legislature, planned for a three-day sprint through Sunday to pass legislation aimed at softening historic property tax increases facing Coloradans early next year. The proposals include spending hundreds of millions of dollars to cut property tax rates and make up at least some of the resulting losses that local governments and school districts would feel from the cuts.

But Republicans forced Democrats to take an evening floor vote to allow for the fast-tracking they planned for legislation in that chamber, via a special order. Without it, the Senate’s normal rules that govern the time between hearings and votes would slow down the handling of bills, potentially extending work into Monday or Tuesday. Democrats contended that the quicker movement was typical in past special sessions.

The 23-12 party-line failed by one vote to clear a needed two-thirds majority threshold. On a quick revote, Senate President Steve Fenberg pressed ahead with a voice vote rather than calling for a roll call — and then declared, over Republicans’ howls, that the motion had passed.

A Republican appeal failed in another floor vote.

The dispute had been brewing for much of the day, but the action played out quickly, leaving some uncertainty late Friday. Democrats signaled that they would forge ahead on the planned timeline — barring a renewed dispute with Republicans on Saturday.

“This isn’t about time. It’s about political theater — and it’s exhausting,” Fenberg said before the first rules vote. “If you think people want property tax cuts, then let’s give them property tax cuts and go home. It’s irresponsible (to delay), and I think it’s dishonest to the people of Colorado.”

Later, Sen. Mark Baisley, a Woodland Park Republican, told Fenberg: “There’s an integrity issue here.”

Special session cheat sheet

Here are the major relief proposals in bills under consideration by Colorado lawmakers in the special session:

► Direct property tax cuts: Increase in the residential property deduction and reduction in the assessment rate. Taxes still will rise in areas with fast-growing property values, but not by nearly as much (with varying impact depending on location and home value).

► Flat TABOR refunds: Estimated at more than $800 per taxpayer, rather than amounts varying by income, with the final figure depending on other legislation. Most taxpayers would receive a higher amount than under the income-tiered system.

► Doubling EITC match: A state match of 50% for workers who qualify for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, to be claimed on their Colorado tax returns.

► Rental assistance: Adding $30 million to the state’s eviction-prevention program, on top of $35 million already budgeted during the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Source: Denver Post reporting, proposed bills.

“Yes,” Fenberg responded, holding his ground. “And …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Politics


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