Op-EdAppeared in The Gazette on October 26, 2023By Alfredo Ortiz and Buz Koelbel

Proposition HH will deliver Coloradans a tax hike

In the Centennial State, Coloradans have long prided themselves on fiscal responsibility. At the heart of this commitment stands the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), a cornerstone of Colorado’s governance that puts state residents in the driver’s seat to control finances. Unfortunately, this bulwark against runaway state spending and overtaxation now faces an existential threat in the form of Proposition HH on next month’s ballot.

While it might sound appealing on the surface, Proposition HH is a step in the wrong direction. And state voters should oppose the measure.

TABOR, enshrined in Colorado’s constitution in 1992, requires that certain tax policy changes must be approved by voters via ballot initiative. This simple yet powerful guardrail prevents the government from imposing additional financial burdens on residents without their consent. The standard also limits government spending increases to a combination of population growth and inflation.

If the government can’t spend more, where does the money go? It rightfully gets refunded back to the taxpayer.

Over the years, TABOR surpluses have delivered significant financial relief to individuals and families. In fact, Colorado taxpayers have enjoyed $8.2 billion in TABOR-provided tax relief since the law’s inception. Single filers last year received roughly $750 alone.

Besides providing families financial wiggle room, it’s also a boost to the Colorado economy. In most cases, TABOR savings don’t sit idle in checking accounts. It gets invested in businesses or fuels consumer spending that strengthens Main Street.

We’ve seen how tax cuts — or in this case tax refunds — can supercharge the economy. After the 2017 federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the country experienced one of the strongest economies in half a century.

Unfortunately, Proposition HH proponents, including Gov. Jared Polis, have selective amnesia and are moving in the opposite direction.

Misleadingly billed as a “property tax relief” measure, Proposition HH is nothing more than a cleverly disguised assault on taxpayer control of government spending. The proposal would raise the state’s spending cap by about 25% under the guise of a property tax cut.

The extra spending will inevitably be paid for by TABOR money that, under current law, should be refunded to the taxpayer. Experts estimate that extra tax liabilities will far outweigh any property tax savings.

According to an analysis from the Common Sense Institute, if approved, joint-filer taxpayers will lose out on more than $5,000 in TABOR refunds over the next 10 years —effectively gutting the TABOR mechanism to nothing.

If the ballot initiative is adopted, the changes are expected to cost Coloradans tens of billions of dollars between now and 2040. And that’s after taking into account gains associated with lower property tax liabilities.

Translation: Proposition HH gives politicians the greenlight to sidestep voter preferences and all but guarantees Colorado residents a tax hike.

We shouldn’t allow this wolf in sheep’s clothing to undermine the constitutional mechanism that bridles government spending and empowers taxpayers at the same time. Voters should protect TABOR by rejecting Proposition HH in November.

The state government needs to remain accountable to the people it serves.

Alfredo Ortiz is the president and CEO of the Job Creators Network. Buz Koelbel is the president and CEO of Koelbel and Company based in Denver and is the board chair of the Common Sense Institute.