It’s no surprise Colorado’s small businesses aren’t buying Proposition HH, the bait-and-shaft tax measure on this fall’s statewide ballot. After all, the resilient mom ’n’ pop shops, upstart entrepreneurs and other small-scale employers who create so many of our jobs and bring us so many of our goods and services — are used to scrutinizing the bottom line. They have to just to stay afloat. So, they aren’t about to let someone sell them a bucket of red ink.
Which is, more or less, what Prop. HH would do. It dangles a token, temporary property tax cuts, in exchange for letting the state keep billions of dollars in surplus tax revenue that otherwise would have to be returned to voters.
Hence, survey results released not long ago by the National Federation of Independent Business-Colorado — the voice of the state’s small-business community — showing Prop. HH is about as popular as COVID-19 as far as small-biz proprietors are concerned. NFIB asked its members last month, “Should Colorado reduce TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) tax refunds and use the retained funds to lower property taxes and increase education and local government funding?” Fully 90% were opposed; 9% supported it, and 1% were undecided.
Small-business owners are by and large a savvy lot, offering a good gauge as to whether a proposal passes the smell test. They so adamantly oppose this ballot measure — hatched by the Legislature last spring and placed on the upcoming ballot with the blessing of Gov. Jared Polis — that NFIB-Colorado launched an official campaign this week in opposition.
The campaign features radio ads, digital ads, and a web page (for more information, go to: https://www.nfib.com/refund-colorado/).
“We’re calling out Proposition HH for what it really is, a bait-and-switch, offering a temporary property tax cut but undoing TABOR refunds,” NFIB state director Tony Gagliardi said in a news statement released Monday. “Colorado’s small business owners have trusted the Taxpayer Bill of Rights for 30 years to return some of their hard-earned money.”
Gagliardi is of course referring to the policy Colorado voters amended into our state constitution in 1992. The amendment limits year-to-year increases in government spending to the rates of inflation plus population growth. Revenue collected over that amount has to be returned to taxpayers.
And Gagliardi is right; the property-tax relief promised by Prop. HH is a con. Not only does it pale in size compared with the amount of TABOR refunds voters are being asked to give up — but it also would make them pay for even that paltry “relief” out of their own pockets, using some of their relinquished refunds. The rest would be used to grow government.
Make no mistake, Prop. HH is a windfall for the state government. The state would haul in an additional $9 billion that otherwise would go back to taxpayers over the coming decade. For taxpayers, on the other hand, Prop. HH is a raw deal. They would lose far more over time by giving up their refunds — Common Sense Institute pegs it at over $5,000 per joint-filing household over 10 years — than they’ll gain in modest property tax relief.
As a business owner might say, HH would leave taxpayers deeply in the red. No wonder small businesses give it a thumbs-down.