Seniors and Veterans Deserve a Break
By Senator Larry Liston (R-Colorado Springs)
There is a lot of talk this legislative session at the State Capitol about making Colorado a more affordable place to live, work, and raise a family. I am committed to advancing solutions this session to address the rising cost of living in our state, especially when it comes to affordable housing. I have introduced measures to stop local governments from limiting the construction of new homes, recruit more students into the understaffed building trades, and make the senior and disbaled veterans property tax exemption more generous.
This last bill is especially important to me because of the increasing property tax burden that has fallen on seniors and disabled veterans in our state. Consider the fact that in 1960 the median home price in the United States was about $178,000, expressed in today’s dollars, while the median home price in 2021 was $374,900. In Colorado, we have seen an explosion in home prices that far exceeds the national average due to our state's strong economy and the large number of people that have relocated here in recent years. According to the Zillow Home Value Index, the typical Colorado home in the middle price tier of listings was $224,000 in February 2012, that has climbed to $536,000 in February 2022. In other words, the price of a home in Colorado has more than doubled in just ten years, while it has taken the national median home price many decades to achieve the same growth.
Rapidly rising home values translate to bigger property tax bills for seniors and disabled veterans on a fixed income. Many of these Coloradans purchased their homes years ago, long before the rapid increase in home prices of recent years, and are being taxed on the value of their home that has appreciated only on paper. Seniors and disabled veterans will not realize any of these gains unless they choose to sell their home, yet their property tax bill keeps getting larger.
At a time when seniors and disabled veterans, many on a fixed income, are confronted with the highest rate of inflation in nearly 40 years, I do not believe it is fair to saddle these citizens with larger and larger property tax bills every year based on paper gains. I have introduced legislation with Representative Terri Carver (R-Colorado Springs), Senate Bill 22-093, that will modify the property tax exemption for seniors and disabled veterans to apply to the first $400,000 of a home’s value, rather than the first $200,000, as current law provides. Our bill will also allow for the exemption to be portable when a senior or disabled veteran has to move to a different residence out of medical necessity; these Coloradans shouldn't lose their property tax exemption simply because a medical condition forced them to relocate.
This bill, along with more than 40 others, are part of the recently revealed Republican Commitment to Colorado legislative package. Legislative Republicans are focused on making Colorado more affordable for the average family - which is why I’m hopeful this bill will become law this year.
Our senior citizens and disabled veterans are especially vulnerable to runaway inflation and higher taxes. I am pleased that my Democrat colleagues in the General Assembly have also expressed concerns about the rapidly rising cost of living in our state. Senate Bill 22-093 is an easy way for Democrats to turn their words into action; there is no reason why both parties should not rally around this bill to make Colorado more affordable for senior citizens and disabled veterans. That is the least we owe them.
If you are interested in testifying in favor of Senate Bill 22-093, there is a committee hearing on Thursday in the Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee. All are welcome to share their input on the bill.