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Lawmakers looking at end run around ballot question on property tax cut

The proposal could create a work around to a question voters could see on the November ballot.

DENVER — A bill proposed in the waning days of the General Assembly would rewrite how property taxes are classified, but more directly could work around a question about lowering property taxes on the November ballot.

Colorado Politics obtained a draft of the bill to be introduced late Wednesday by Sen. Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat, and Sen. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, to turn the two property tax classifications, commercial and residential, into five or perhaps six divisions.

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In the House, the bill's prime sponsor is Majority Leader Daneya Esgar of Pueblo.

The timing of the bill and what it changes matter — the title is set and petition signatures are already being gathered on a petition to reduce residential and non-residential classifications cumulatively by $1.03 billion in 2023 and comparable amounts thereafter.

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If lawmakers bust up the classifications — a powder keg of intentions and politics that might benefit Republicans in next year's general election — the savings to taxpayers falls to about $200 million in two years, a loss of about $900 million a year.

Supporters have until Aug. 2 to collect 124,632 signatures from registered Colorado voters to qualify for the ballot. Rewriting the ballot measure to adjust for potential 11th-hour changes from the legislature at this juncture isn't possible, they told Colorado Politics.

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Proponents of the tax cut, however, have vowed to take it to court if the legislature can pass the pre-emptive changes to limit the tax savings. 

The new bill fits a pattern of recent efforts by the Democratic-controlled legislature to put workarounds in place on measures passed by voters. 

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