The Denver Post editorial page curiously wonders aloud this morning how extending a repeal of the senior homestead property tax exemption amounts to a tax increase:
"I have no interest in increasing property taxes on seniors most in need," House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, told The Denver Post's Tim Hoover this week when asked whether lawmakers will again suspend a property-tax break that costs $100 million. And this is by no means the first time we've heard this theme from leading Republicans.
Yet how would extending the suspension of a tax break amount to a tax hike? To the contrary: It would keep property taxes right where they are.
The Post argues that because the property tax credit was first repealed for a limited time period a few years back, extending the tax hike really isn't a tax hike at all since seniors have been paying full fare on property taxes for the last couple of years.
How's it a tax hike? Well, by the Post editorial board's own reasoning it should be called a tax hike. As they referred to an extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut as a tax cut, then an extension of a higher tax rate should be deemed a tax hike.
From a Post editorial in January:
Congress will no doubt eventually succeed, since neither party wants to be blamed for raising taxes on working Americans in an election year — which is how reversing the Social Security tax cut would be framed.
If Congress did nothing payroll Social Security taxes would go up. Likewise, if the Legislature does nothing, senior property taxes would go down.
So why does the Post editorial board go after the framing of the senior homestead exemption as a tax hike, but sticks with the framing of the Social Security tax holiday as a tax cut?
Probably has nothing to do with their noticeably more left leaning nature since the departure of editorial head Dan Haley. Of course not.
But back to the Post ed writers' analysis of the senior homestead exemption.
They're reasoning is just so much sophistry. Trapping senior citizens at higher tax rates in the middle of a bone jarring recession is morally and mathematically equivalent to increasing their property taxes in the first place.
In truth, John Hickenlooper's extension of the senior homestead tax hike will have the equivalent impact on senior citizens as Bill Ritter's initial push to repeal it at the end of his imploding administration. Simply put, with the exemption suspended they are paying a higher rate, which according to our dictionary, equals a tax hike.
Like Ritter's initial foray, Hickenlooper's tax hike tilt will cost senior citizens $100 million a year. As we said, trapping seniors in higher tax levels is same-same from both a practical and economic standpoint. It sucks $100 million out of the deserving pockets of seniors and puts it in the pocket of a state government that refuses to reform a Medicaid program that has grown by multiple billions in just the last few years.
Listen to JBC budget guru Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan):
"We have a lot of difficult decisions to make, including entitlement reform, which the governor has refused to address again this year,” Becker said. “House Republicans will continue to do their part to pass a budget that protects families and seniors, and empowers our state’s job creators so Colorado can emerge from this recession stronger and better than before.”
Governor Hickenlooper won't even acknowledge that reforming the state's exploding entitlement is legal. And the Post wants seniors and conservatives to just roll over and trap old people into higher taxes?
Predictably the Post plays the class card as well. Just listen:
Indeed, a large majority of seniors who filed for the exemption when it was in force were most certainly not those "most in need." The law does not impose any income requirement, and most senior homeowners are not poor. If they've lived in their home for a decade, they'll get the break.
The Post on this point too is being disingenuous.
The overwhelming amount of revenue that comes from the property tax repeal and proposed extension comes from seniors on fixed incomes. The Post may feel like it is helping Hickenlooper, but poor and middle class seniors who would be hit by Hick's tax hike no doubt roll their eyes at such class baiting.
Ultimately, the Post editorial board has a limited audience to influence. Seniors on tight incomes, who have seen their retirement savings plummet with the economy, know what that extra income would mean to their bottom line. Editorial sophistry is not going to change that.
If the senior homestead exemption is suspended again, seniors would pay a higher tax rate than if no law is passed this year. Passing a law that functionally raises tax rates is a tax hike in our book, and we're betting it is too in the book of Colorado's seniors.