You’re not crazy, there could be two competing carbon taxes on Denver’s 2020 ballot

Locals aren’t done pushing for a tax on pollution, and elected officials still have their own version in the back pocket.

Denver's air quality is visibly not great on Aug. 20, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver's air quality is visibly not great on Aug. 20, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

As Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday unveiled a proposed budget that included money to tackle climate change, Resilient Denver, a group hoping to bring a carbon tax to Denver, isn’t hitting pause on its own efforts.

If anything, the group seems energized after announcing last week they successfully gathered new signatures to have their proposal appear before voters next year. They had originally planned on getting the measure before voters this fall, but were unable to get enough signatures in time.

The Resilient Denver measure could raise an estimated $40 million by taxing residential, commercial and industrial users of electricity and natural gas at higher rates, according to its projections.

Resilient Denver spokesperson Ean Tafoya said Monday they’re closely monitoring the city’s own plans.

Last month, Denver City Council members temporarily ditched an effort to introduce their own version of a carbon tax bill after putting together a plan with Mayor Michael Hancock’s office. Hancock did not support the council’s initial bill.

Tafoya said his group is looking forward to being part of the process for the city’s efforts. They’re also preparing to take part of the 10-day climate strike set to begin Sept. 20.

The tentative city budget released by Hancock includes $40 million to fight climate change, with $8 million in new funding. It establishes the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency, and pumps money into recycling and composting expansion and other green-friendly initiatives. The office was something the Resilient Denver sought to establish.

“The office for climate is going to be that custodian of our climate efforts, but there’s still gonna be other agencies who do climate work,” City Chief Financial Officer Brendan Hanlon said during a budget briefing on Monday.

Tafoya said the group could withdraw its ballot measure if the city puts forth a sufficient plan. That decision could only come if all five original petitioners unanimously agree to withdraw the initiative. Tafoya said Monday he was still in the process of reviewing the mayor’s budget.

“I think it’s too early to tell what the outcome is going to be,” Tafoya said. “But we’re excited to be at the table and have so many eyes on the issue now.”

At the moment, it’s technically possible voters could see two carbon tax measures on their November 2020 ballot. That’s because the bill council members ditched last month was only set aside temporarily. The legislative branch could revive the initiative if the Hancock administration doesn’t deliver on its part of the compromise.

Denver Elections spokesperson Alton Dillard confirmed the council has until the last Monday in August 2020 to bring a referred measure onto that year’s ballot. So there’s time for the council to change course and bring back the bill for further consideration and potential referral to voters.

City Council President Jolon Clark had not returned an interview request at publishing time.

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