Sara Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) Colorado Democratic lawmakers are set to pass a last-minute proposal that would result in flat-rate refunds to which taxpayers are entitled.

House Bill 23-1311, introduced Saturday, would make upcoming Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds equal for all taxpayers, instead of based on income level. Single filers would receive $661 and joint filers would receive double that next year after they submit their tax return.

When the state collects revenue above a cap that rises according to inflation and population growth, it must refund the excess back to taxpayers. The governor’s Office of State Planning and Budget recently estimated the state would collect about $2.7 billion over that cap in the current fiscal year.

“I believe it is a more reasonable, more fair, more equitable, more fair to the voters than what we have in place now — the so-called six-tier mechanism,” bill sponsor Rep. Mike Weissman, an Aurora Democrat, said on the House floor Saturday.

The other bill sponsors are Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy of Lakewood, Sen. Nick Hinrichsen of Pueblo and Sen. Chris Hansen of Denver, all Democrats.

The bill is tied to the passage of a property tax relief measure, created through Senate Bill 23-303 and set to be on the ballot in November as Proposition HH. That measure is a response to rising home values and a spike in property taxes for owners. Voters will need to approve that measure in order for the TABOR refunds, which would go to both homeowners and renters alike, to be flattened.

For Coloradans who make $50,000 or less, the $661 check would be about $200 more than they could expect to receive otherwise. People making between $50,000 and $100,000 would get about $50 more. Higher income earners would not get as much with the identical-refund scheme than they would otherwise — nearly $800 less for people making above $270,000.

similar bill from last year led to taxpayers receiving $750 checks ahead of schedule. The current bill wouldn’t change timing.

“Working class and poor people saw their TABOR rebates go up so much (last year). It could mean a world of difference. It could mean half a month’s rent, an electric bill, a credit card payment. This is good policy. When we’re talking about tax relief in the broader conversation, we need to make sure the working class and the poor are part of that conversation,” Rep. Javier Mabrey, a Denver Democrat, said.

Republicans heavily criticized the rapid timeline of the TABOR bill, which they said did not allow for proper public consumption and comment. It was introduced in the House Saturday, passed on second reading that night and passed on third reading Sunday morning. Following an afternoon Senate hearing, it was passed by the Senate on second reading on Sunday evening.

The lawmaking session this year ends midnight on Monday.

“In less than 24 hours, House Democrats introduced House Bill 1311 with a $2.4 billion fiscal note that would change how Colorado TABOR refunds are distributed — equitably — regardless of your contribution. This massive change to make TABOR refunds ‘equitable’ was posted online, heard in appropriations committee, had limited public comment and was voted on in less than a day from introduction,” House Minority Leader Mike Lynch, a Wellington Republican, said in a statement.