Colorado voters to decide on whether to cut income taxes on the 2022 ballot

Colorado voters will be asked once again if they want to reduce the state’s income tax rate, this time on the November 2022 ballot.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office approved Initiative 31 on Thursday, projecting that backers had submitted 118.9% of the required 124,632 valid signatures. The initiative calls for an across the board income tax rate cut from 4.55% to 4.40%.

Voters approved a state income tax rate reduction last year, taking the income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%. The same backers of that proposition — Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling and the libertarian Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara — are the ones asking voters for this cut.

“It’s frustrating that we have to go through this process because the legislature will not live within its means just like every other family in Colorado,” Sonnenberg said, citing fees levied for places like Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

But opponents of such permanent tax reductions say they will require the state government to make significant funding cuts from essential programs such as education, human services and public safety.

The Bell Policy Center, which advocates for Taxpayer Bill of Rights reforms, backed a proposal in 2020 for a constitutional amendment that would tax the richest Coloradans and cut them for everyone else, but it didn’t qualify with enough signatures for the ballot that year.

Executive Director Scott Wasserman pointed to the group’s polling earlier this year, which showed that 61% of Coloradans wanted a fairer tax code.

“Colorado has to start having smarter conversations, and measures like this don’t do anything but make our budget hole worse and end up hurting low and middle income families,” he said.

If voters approve Initiative 31, an income of $20,000 per year would go down another $30, while someone who makes $100,000 will see a $150 annual reduction, for example.

In the 2021 election, voters rejected all three statewide measures, including two conservative proposals for a property tax rate reduction and a requirement for all fee spending to be approved by the legislature and go through a public hearing.

Sonnenberg said that he heard from some constituents that they found those measures confusing, but this one is straightforward.

“They have the option to say, ‘you know what, government, we’ll allow you to keep a little more money. I like the way you’re spending the tax dollars, the money you’re taking in,’ or it allows taxpayers to say, ‘I want some of my money back because you are collecting money from me that I didn’t get a vote on,’” he said.

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