Cost of Living

COST OF LIVING – It has become more expensive just to get by in Colorado and wages are not keeping up.

Below are bills I’ve sponsored to put money back in people’s pockets and take on powerful corporations whose practices are making it more expensive to live in Colorado.

2023 & 2024 Property Tax Reduction (SB22-238) – Property taxes fund our schools, counties and sometimes other services like firefighting and libraries. But when property values increase sharply in a short amount of time, as they have in Colorado in recent years, property taxes go up quickly too, and that can be hard for household budgets. I sponsored this bill to reduce the property taxes Colorado residents and businesses will pay for two years, saving the average homeowner hundreds of dollars and keeping taxes from going up at all for some small businesses. Due to existing school finance law, school funding will not be reduced by these property tax reductions, and the state will use its some its revenues to “backfill” other local government budgets. STATUS – signed into law.

Senior Citizen Income Tax Credit (HB22-1205) – Colorado’s “Senior Homestead Exemption” is a property tax break that helps many seniors make ends meet by reducing the property taxes they are required to pay. However, this exemption is not available to seniors who rent their homes or haven’t lived in the same home for at least 10 years. I sponsored this bill to create a 1-year refundable income tax credit of up to $1,000 for lower- and middle-income Colorado seniors (up to $75,000 adjusted gross income) who are not eligible for the property tax reduction. This tax credit will benefit around 150,000 Colorado seniors, saving them a total of $100 million to help meet the challenges of rising costs. STATUS – signed into law.

Mike joins other lawmakers as Gov. Polis signs their bill to create an income tax credit for senior citizens.

Expanding Access to Free Community College (HB22-1002 & HB22-1390) – For over 10 years Colorado has had a program called ASCENT that enables qualifying high school seniors to take an additional or fifth year of high school to pursue concurrent enrollment courses at a local community college (like CCA). This allows students to complete a 2-year degree with no tuition cost, saving thousands of dollars. Historically, ASCENT has been capped at 500 students per year, fewer than the number of students the state’s own data shows would like to pursue ASCENT. I sponsored HB 1002 to eliminate the cap, making ASCENT eligible to any qualifying student.  During the legislative process, HB 1002 was incorporated into the annual “School Finance Act,” HB22-1390, and became law that way. STATUS – signed into law.

Metro District Debt Reform (HB22-1363) – Almost no new housing in Colorado is built without a “metro district” (short for “metropolitan district”), which is a kind of government that can issue debt and impose taxes. As metro districts have proliferated – they now number more than 2,000 statewide, mostly in the metro Denver area – more and more residents have begun to question the amount of debt they issue and lack of transparency about their operations. I sponsored this bill to try to increase transparency surrounding metro district finances, to give cities and counties more oversight of metro districts on behalf of their taxpaying residents, and to prevent developers from buying debt that they themselves voted to issue (acting as directors of metro districts). However, this bill was defeated due to lobbying by the metro district industry.

Increased Oversight of Insurance Rates (HB22-1357) – Car insurance is legally required, and homeowners insurance is required to have a mortgage, which most homeowners do. But Colorado law offers less oversight over insurance rates than some other states have. I sponsored this bill to require certain minimum “loss ratios” for auto and homeowners insurance – so that auto insurance policies would have to pay policyholders 75% of premium dollars in benefits (claims paid after an accident) and homeowners policies would have to pay 80%. Just a 1% improvement in these “loss ratios” would save Coloradans $80 million per year. However, this bill was defeated due to lobbying by the insurance industry.

Tax Justice: Closing Loopholes and Supporting Working People (HB21-1311 and HB21-1312) – Almost all of us pay some amount of taxes, and taxes are how we fund things like K-12 education, firefighting, parks and open spaces, taking care of the disabled, and much more. But our tax laws have become riddled with special interest loopholes that take funding away from public services for the benefit of a small number of large corporations or wealthy individuals. I sponsored these bills to close over $100 million in tax loopholes and instead support working families and small local businesses with our tax laws, by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, funding the state Child Tax Credit for the first time ever, exempting small businesses from the business personal property tax, and promoting employee owned businesses with targeted tax credits. Together, these were some of the biggest tax reform bills Colorado has passed in over a decade. STATUS: signed into law.

Prohibitions Against Price Gouging in Disaster Emergencies (HB20-1414) – At the outset of COVID-19, Colorado was one of only about 15 states with no specific prohibition against price gouging – charging unconscionable or abusive prices to rip off consumers.  I sponsored this bill to update the Colorado Consumer Protection Act to empower the attorney general and each district attorney to take action against sellers engaging in price gouging.  Because retailers themselves may sometimes be victims of price gouging by another actor in the supply chain, the bill also makes clear that just passing on prices directly attributable to costs imposed by suppliers is not a violation of the new law.  STATUS:  signed into law.

Strengthening the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (HB19-1289) – Until this year, Colorado’s consumer protection laws were rated among the weakest in the nation. I sponsored this bill to strengthen protections for consumers harmed by irresponsible corporations by removing barriers to enforcement, updating penalty amounts for the first time in decades, and allowing action against reckless anti-consumer conduct. STATUS – signed into law.

Increased Funding for Affordable Housing (HB19-1245) – Whether you’re looking for a place to rent or a home to buy, housing is increasingly out of reach. Yet Colorado has been one of only a few states without a dedicated source of funding for affordable housing efforts. I sponsored this bill to create sustainable funding for housing efforts without raising taxes. By closing a loophole in our existing tax code, this bill will invest nearly $16 million over the next 2 years and $45-50 million per year thereafter for construction of new housing units for sale and for rent and to support other housing efforts. STATUS: signed into law.

Affordable housing bill signing, May 2019.
Affordable housing bill signing, May 2019.