Phase-out of biz tax stalls in Colorado Senate |

Phase-out of biz tax stalls in Colorado Senate

Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” A proposal to gradually phase out the business personal property tax has stalled in the Colorado Senate despite picking up bipartisan support.

A Senate Appropriations Committee vote to send the measure (Senate Bill 85) to the full Senate for debate ended in a tie on Friday. Sponsor Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, said he would continue talking to opponents, but it’s not clear what common ground they can find.

Businesses currently pay a tax on all of their equipment, from office furniture to computers to machinery. Companies have long complained how onerous it is to calculate and pay the tax. But lawmakers have resisted eliminating it because of the millions it provides to local governments, much of it used to pay for schools.

Scheffel proposed phasing out the tax over 40 years and waiting until 2011, when the economy might be better, to start the process. Senate President Peter Groff, D-Denver, said he thought it was something to consider this year as lawmakers examine tax credits and other ways to help businesses and create jobs.

But Democrat Moe Keller of Wheat Ridge said the state can’t afford to lose any revenue. She said the state would have to provide local school districts an extra $2.5 million in the phase-out’s first year and more than $200 million in the final year because it must make up whatever districts can’t raise.

Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, said the tax should only be phased out if it’s replaced with another tax. Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, argued lawmakers could certainly come up with a solution during the 40-year process.

GOP Sen. Al White of Hayden said Scheffel’s proposal could hurt Rio Blanco County, which gets more than 20 percent of its revenue from the tax. He said that percentage could grow as oil and gas drilling increases and if oil shale is developed.

Backers of repealing the tax say the move ultimately will generate more revenue with new business. But Keller said the Taxpayers Bill of Rights won’t allow the state to keep that money and that businesses should help change that constitutional amendment, which was approved by voters.

Scheffel said he doesn’t back changing TABOR and doesn’t want to impose any new business taxes but that lawmakers must find a solution.

“If we don’t get on the road, we’ll never get there,” Scheffel said.

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