Colorado AG blasts school-funding bill

Chris Rizo Mar. 31, 2009, 5:33pm

John Suthers (R)

DENVER, Colo. (Legal Newsline)-Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said Tuesday that he opposes legislation that would penalize school districts that reinstate revenue caps in an effort to keep local property tax rates low.

The Republican attorney general's comments follow a recent state Supreme Court decision that upheld a 2007 voter-approved law that froze property tax rates for school districts.

"Now that the voters have a chance to cast an informed vote about whether they want to see their property taxes increase, the Legislature wants to punish them if they vote in favor of lower taxes," Suthers said.

The 2007 law prevented mill rates from falling because property values would have increased, resulting in a net revenue increase for nearly every school district in Colorado.

Suthers said Tuesday that a provision in Senate Bill 256 would penalize school districts whose residents vote to allow their property tax rates to return to previous levels by freezing their state funding levels.

"I would encourage the Legislature to strip this provision out Senate Bill 256," Suthers said. "The Supreme Court's decision eroded the voters' rights to decide when their property taxes go up. It would be a shame to see the Legislature penalize children when informed voters exercise their right to choose lower property taxes."

At the time of the Supreme Court ruling this month, Suthers said we was not surprised by the high court's opinion that the law does not violate the state's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, or TABOR law, which limits the state government's revenue growth.

"I remain convinced that the Colorado Constitution dictates that the voters decide when their taxes should be increased," Suthers said at the time.

The law was aimed at preserving funding for public schools. The law is expected to raise $1.7 billion for schools over 11 years.

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