COLO. SPRINGS – Rep. Tony Exum backed legislation that will ask voters to approve a $1 billion income tax hike, but the Democrat lawmaker recently disseminated a survey asking voters in his district if they want their property taxes cut.
In the “What matters to you, matters to me” handout, Exum asks voters to rank issues in order of their importance.
The list includes “School Funding and Class Sizes, Smarter State Government, Promoting Renewable Energy, Jobs and Economy, Safe Communities/Reducing Crime” and “Lower Property Taxes.”
Exum voted for Senate Bill 213, the Public School Finance Act, which carries a hefty price tag – nearly $1 billion dollar across the board state income tax increase.
In fact, Exum added his name as a co-sponsor of the bill that, if approved by voters in November, would increase the state income tax rate by 8 percent on earnings less than $75,000, and by 27 percent on earnings over $75,000.
Voters taking the survey aren’t informed of the $1 billion tax bite, much less that there is no guarantee it would lower class sizes.
The survey implies that Exum would lower property taxes, but doesn’t provide detail.
Exum voted for House Bill 1319 which, in compliance with Gallagher Amendment, sets the residential assessment rate for a period of two tax years. The measure reapproved the rate at 7.96 percent – the same assessment since 2003 – and greatly reduced from 21 percent in 1985.
The biggest property tax hit in House District 17 is Colorado Springs School District 11’s general and bond levies, and to a much smaller degree El Paso County, Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak Library district and Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy.
The Democrat lawmaker’s condominium property tax bill this year was a total of $324.24 – of that, $230.29 or 71 percent was levied by the school district. The taxes for an average home value of $158,000 in HD 17 are roughly $760 this year, and of that, about $548 goes to the District 11 public schools.
Tax and mill levy increases are approved by voters – not legislators – under the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR).
“We’re talking about reducing taxes for seniors,” said Exum, who clarified that he wants to extend the Homestead Exemption Act that was approved by voters in 2000 but was suspended during the recession in 2009. The legislature restored the senior property tax exemption in 2012.
The Democrat’s survey also asks HD 17 voters if they would like to hear more about other issues, presumably at his monthly town hall meetings. Those include “Investing in Clean Energy, Cutting Government Waste, Immigration Issues (and) Affordable Health Care.”
Exum voted for Senate Bill 252, which mandates 20 percent green energy production by 2020 for rural electric co-ops, including Mountain View Electric that serves folks in parts of El Paso County and exempts Colorado Springs Utilities.
The bill, which doubled the green energy requirement in rural areas, was supported by Exum and fellow Democrats, but criticized by rural co-ops who say the expanded government mandate will result in higher utility bills.
Interestingly, the survey did not mention gun-control – the issue that sparked the recall of Democrat Senate President John Morse and election of Republican Bernie Herpin in Senate District 11 which includes parts of House District 17.
Exum was one of the Democratic state lawmakers contacted by Vice President Joe Biden during the height of the gun-control debate earlier this year.
“I was totally surprised. (Biden) just said he’s watching us and asked if we had a chance to move these bills forward and said what an important signal it would send to the country if we do,” Exum told KDVR TV in February.
“I told him we’ve got a great chance,” Exum said. “He was really pleased to hear that.”
“He knows what a big deal it would be for Colorado to pass these,” Exum said. “We’re a western state.”