A bid by the state legislature to let Colorado cities and towns keep taxpayer refunds currently guaranteed under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights gained initial support from the Denver City Council on Tuesday.
Proposition CC would “de-Bruce” the state budget, meaning Colorado could keep all of the taxes it gets instead of returning them to residents once collections reach a certain threshold. That cap was set in 1992 when Coloradans passed TABOR, a policy that constrains the government’s ability to tax residents. (TABOR came from the mind of anti-tax activist and former Denver landlord Douglas Bruce, hence the phrase “de-Bruce,” a verb used solely in reference to Colorado budget policy.)
If voters pass the measure, the state would be able to spend de-Bruced dollars on education and transportation. Automobile-centric projects would get the bulk of the transportation funds while transit — walking, biking, bus and train projects — would share 15 percent of the funds.
Denver voters de-Bruced the city’s economy in 2012, so Prop CC does not directly our budget. But the city does benefit from state money. Colorado taxes provide the second-largest chunk of money for Denver Public Schools, according to DPS documents, while state-owned roads — think Colfax Avenue, Federal Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard — and interstates weave through the city.
The City and County of Denver also receives funding from Colorado’s coffers in the form of grants for various government functions.
Households statewide would forgo between $25 and $150 a year, according to State Sen. Lois Court, one of the bill’s sponsors. The legislature estimates a windfall of between $265 million and $348 million for the 2020 tax year, Court said.
“It is about an outdated funding formula that we have in our constitution,” Court told the City Council’s governance committee Wednesday. “It is about asking the voters if we can keep that overage to use for what Coloradans want.”
The committee voted to advance Prop CC to the full legislative body.