The Title Board on Wednesday declined to set a voting title for a $ 14 million sales tax reduction initiative, saying the promoters’ attempt to isolate their measure from legislative interference violated the requirement to the constitution according to which the voting initiatives contain only one subject.
Initiative # 45 of Suzanne Taheri and Michael Fields reportedly lowered the sales and use tax rate from 2.9% to 2.89% for just two years, costing the state $ 14.2 million in revenue for the fiscal year 2023-2024 and $ 14.9 million the following year.
However, a section of the initiative said that any “successor legislation” introduced after July 22 of this year would be repealed and Initiative # 45 would prevail.
“Right now, an initiative promoter has no right not to have his initiative spoiled by the General Assembly,” observed Jason Gelender, board member, “and you are trying to adopt one. “
Taheri and Fields said the language of the initiative was a reaction to Senate Bill 293, which the governor promulgated in June. This legislation created four categories of property and set tax rates for the next two years that are lower than current rates for residential and non-residential property. This will cost local governments around $ 200 million in tax revenue.
Enter Initiative # 27, of which Fields is also a designated representative. As introduced – months before SB 293 – the initiative would cut local government revenues by more than $ 1 billion a year by lowering property tax rates, and in the process affecting schools, police and fire protection, among other services.
But the legislator’s preventative amendment to the property tax law means that if initiative # 27 were passed, SB 293 would force these rate cuts. apply only to a narrow subset of property – dwellings and multi-family residential units.
“This is not a final race,” one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, told Colorado Politics. “A lot of people, especially in multi-family dwellings, need targeted tax relief. We are trying to create these targets in law and immediately give property tax relief to these categories.”
Taheri told the Title Board that the legislature could change the effect of other ballot initiatives in the same way, changing the law after the text of an initiative and the ballot title have already been defined.
“We are not doing anything other than protecting our only subject,” she said, explaining the sales tax reduction measure. “Any legislation to change the general purpose and intent of this initiative would be repealed and we will revert to the language of this initiative. “
“You are trying to sustain this initiative against whatever the General Assembly can do in the interim before it is passed,” observed Gelender, who represents the Office of Legislative Legal Services on the board.
However, the board voted unanimously for the section protecting the initiative of the legislature to create a second subject: limiting the power of legislators to legislate and potentially overturning acts of the General Assembly.
“I see the frustration and the need, but it seems more related to the initiative process and not the sales tax,” said board chair Theresa Conley, representing Secretary of State Jena Griswold. “Having said that, if you want to make an initiative, this is how you beat the General Assembly.”
The primary responsibility of the three-member Securities Council is to determine whether a proposed voting initiative fits into a single topic, as required by the state constitution. If so, it defines a title that appears before voters that is brief, but describes all of the central features of the measure. Supporters are then on track to collect signatures for the initiative’s placement on the statewide ballot.
The board previously approved a title for a related Taheri and Fields measure, Initiative # 41, which would also reduce tax revenue on sales and use by around $ 14 million. While the initiative rejected on Wednesday would have lasted two years, Initiative # 41 would permanently reduce the rate.