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Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Another questionable Denver distinction – tax equity | Denver Newspaper | Opinion

By meerna Jun12,2024

Denver is the capital of Colorado and its most populous city. Having the largest municipal budget in the country, it also spends the most. It is certainly the state’s most important sanctuary city for illegal immigration and an epicenter for car theft.

In addition to these debatable and, in some cases, questionable distinctions, Denver may now join the ranks of Colorado’s highest-tax cities.

As reported last week in The Gazette, the Denver City Council is considering whether to ask voters for a sales tax increase to help fund Denver Health. Hospital of Last Chance, the city and county’s “safety net” that admits all patients regardless of ability to pay or lack of health insurance, is struggling to cope with the rising costs of care for the indigent.

If the council wins support and voters approve, Denver would become the metro area’s largest and highest-taxed city. Denver would also have one of the highest tax rates in the state.

The proposed 0.34 percentage point increase would raise Denver’s total sales tax rate to 9.15%.

But wait – there’s more.

As District 2 council veteran Kevin Flynn noted in a report in The Gazette, several other pending tax measures – one of them, an affordable housing sales tax increase – could also be put on the municipal ballot this fall. This could raise Denver’s total sales tax to 9.61%.

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On top of all this are several other investments that the City and County of Denver have no direct control over, but that would increase the average Denverite’s tax bill.

One of them is a proposed nearly $1 billion bond issue for Denver Public Schools pending consideration by the DPS board. The second, of course, is the elephant in the room – the sharp increase in property taxes for most Coloradans over the last few years. Many of the tax bills that came this spring included increases of more than 25%.

The thing is, Denver voters are painfully aware of this. They also realize a big reason they may be asked to fund Denver Health – illegal immigration. As The Gazette’s report noted, the hospital saw $10 million in additional “unpaid care” last year alone. The health care system attributes this budget achievement largely to tens of thousands of visits from immigrant patients from South and Central America who illegally entered the United States and arrived in Denver.

Said Dr. Taylor McCormick, associate director of pediatric emergency medicine at Denver Health, “Denver Health is eating into the cost of many of these visits.”

And now the city’s taxpayers may also be asked to cover some of those costs. This is in addition to the cuts to city services that Denver residents have experienced, such as reduced hours at parks and recreation centers and DMV branches, and, most notably, cuts to the public safety budget. It’s all part of the bill passed to taxpayers, like it or not, for its sanctuary city status.

You can bet Denverites have had enough.

Flynn, who has expressed “grave concern about the burden on Denver taxpayers,” seems to understand this. He noted that Denver citizens have already shown generosity to Denver Health: “Every time I pay off my mortgage, plus property taxes, I am paying off the bonds that built equity in Denver Health.”

Flynn also expressed concerns about the broader budget situation.

“Our sales tax revenues are already below our projections, which makes me concerned about our general fund,” he said. “It may be time to consider putting a cap on sales tax rates.”

Sales tax ceiling? There was a suggestion that we would like the Council to comment on the vote.

Denver Gazette Editorial Team

By meerna

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