In Tuesday’s election, Colorado voters decisively rejected a comprehensive proposal to restructure the state’s tax structure, and Proposition HH’s supporters conceded defeat an hour after the polls closed.
Prop. HH was a lengthy proposal that brought together multiple Democratic priorities. Although it was heavily promoted as a way to reduce property taxes, it also brought about a number of important changes to the state’s long-term revenue collection, expenditure, and refunding processes for general taxes.
“It just says to me that this wasn’t good enough and that legislators need to get to work. I think we need to build a coalition, and that’s going to be hard work,” said Scott Wasserman, a progressive supporter of the measure.
Governor Jared Polis and fellow Democrats suffer a double blow from its defeat. First of all, even though they had promised for months that they would act, they still have no response regarding the property tax increases for the upcoming year.
Many homeowners and business owners will see a 30% or higher increase in their tax bills due to rising property values.
Polis has not promised to call a special legislative session, despite pressure from Republicans to do so in order for lawmakers to pass property tax relief before the end of the year. Additionally, conservatives are pushing a ballot initiative for the following year.
The outcome also means that Democratic attempts to relax TABOR’s fiscal constraints have failed once more. For decades, they have attempted, but with only patchy success, to increase general tax spending on a large scale.
The Prop. HH campaign, which yielded some of the worst outcomes for a tax measure in recent memory, blamed “far right misinformation” for their defeat.
“Prop. HH was a nuanced, balanced policy that appears to have fallen prey to a misinformation slogan campaign by the far right, who would prefer to cut property taxes on the backs of our schools and fire districts,” said Senate President Steve Fenberg in a written statement.
However, a large number of voters claimed that the measure itself was flawed, claiming it was overly intricate or confusing. One of the trickiest ballot questions Colorado voters had to deal with in a long time was Prop. HH, which necessitated twelve pages of explanation in the official voter guide.
Some of the measure’s backers admitted that the on-air messaging did not accurately convey the entire scope of the legislation, emphasizing property taxes while downplaying the possibility that it might ultimately divert billions of dollars from TABOR refunds to public education.
“I think that it has kind of a strange balance of different factors,” said Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy, a Democrat who sponsored the measure in the legislature. “It’s been difficult for us to explain that the way we constructed it is designed to not only hold schools harmless, but ultimately increase our ability to fund our K-12 schools.”
Or, as Wasserman put it: “This is a complicated issue… I think it tried to swallow the whole fish. It tried to solve our whole fiscal problem.”