Colorado Senate Democrats: no tax exemption for Gold Star spouses because of politics

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Resolution HCR21-1002, “Extend Homestead Exemption To Gold Star Spouses,” would have expanded the “100% permanent disability to claim a property tax exemption for 50% of the first $200,000 of actual value of the qualifying senior’s or veteran’s owner-occupied primary residence” from a qualifying senior or a veteran who has a service-connected disability rated as a 100% permanent disability to also allow Gold Star Spouses the same exemption.

Gold Star Spouses are the spouses of deceased service members who qualify for Gold Star pins. An official gold star pin is only awarded to fallen members of the US military when they are killed or die in combat.

Gold Star Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1936, and the Gold Star Wives formed the same year. Gold Star pins were first created by the Gold Star Wives in 1947.

The bipartisan measure, which had unanimous support in the House, died in the Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee on Monday. Majority Caucus & Veterans’ Affairs Chair Senator Julie Gonzalez (D), Senator Dominick Moreno (D), and Senator Sonya Jacquez Lewis voted no on the resolution.

The bill was sponsored by Representative Tim Geitner, Minority Leader (R), Representative Chris Kennedy (D), Senator Paul Lundeen (R), and Senator Jeff Bridges (D). Senator Jeff Bridges (D) testified, “we’re saying that if they make the ultimate sacrifice, then this bill should include them.”

Chair Gonzalez asked the sponsors why this bill wasn’t added to SB21-293, “Property Tax Classification And Assessment Rates.” She questioned why Gold Star families wouldn’t need immediate relief in the “vehicle” that is SB21-293, which is according to Gonzales, moving quickly through the legislature.

Gonzales didn’t understand the difference between Senate Bill 293 and the resolution, which would still require a popular vote next year as well and then if approved would become a Constitutional change. Senator Bridges explained to Gonzales (at the 1:06 mark) that SB21-293, while moving quickly, is picking up a lot of amendments, and that bill would not be the “appropriate” place for this measure.

“The list of [property tax] exemptions is in the Constitution. The only way we can amend them is with a referendum,” explained Bridges.

Senator Moreno said he appreciated the “intent” of the measure. He went on to say that the Homestead Exemption “is in the Constitution, and the legislature has one option and one option only.” Senator Moreno explained that because he doesn’t like Colorado’s Senior Homestead Exemption because of its inequalities and issues, such as larger homes in his neighborhood receiving larger exemptions than smaller ones, he will not allow Gold Star spouses to claim an exemption on their homes, up to the first $200,000 only, which could help them live. Moreno insists that this measure cannot be passed through committee because he doesn’t like another bill, so the spouses of veterans killed in combat were not a priority to him on Monday.

Senator Lundeen argued that the committee needed to make a “statement of intention,” that this issue have a “seat at the table” in 2023, when it would take effect. Senator Bridges agreed to look at the Senior Property Tax Exemption next year and make changes, but he said he wanted the voters to have the ability to vote for this measure in case changes weren’t made quickly enough next year on the SP Tax Exemption.

The fiscal note for HCR21-1002 is only $93,000. For comparison, Democrats recently passed SB21-009, “Reproductive Health Care Program,” which provides free contraceptives to undocumented immigrants. That bill will require an appropriation of $4,125,347 to the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

The vote failed two to three on party lines, and it would’ve only cost $93,000 to assist Colorado Gold Star spouses. Senate Democrats played politics with loved ones of the deceased who gave the ultimate sacrifice the country. For that, they should be ashamed, but it’s indicative of Colorado politics in 2021.

The Colorado Herald