THE BREAKS OF THE GAME

THE HISTORY OF A TAX LOOPHOLE--AND HOW IT GOT PLUGGED.

"No, that doesn't surprise me," sighs Alan Black, Eagle County assessor. "Nothing the legislature does anymore surprises me."

Because the bill is tax-related, last Tuesday it went before the Finance Committee. This time the state's assessors pointed out that Johnson's bill would exempt huge portions of their counties from paying full property taxes. Even though the bill passed on a four-three vote (Republicans for, Democrats against), the pest-control provision was dropped.

But some assessors still have their concerns. Ginger Chase, Douglas County's assessor, fears that wording in the bill would make it impossible for assessors to reclassify farmland--ever. "As I understand this bill, we couldn't increase the property taxes on farmland even if the farmer sold it to some developer for housing," she says.

Potentially worse, says Black, is that there is no language in the bill preventing residential or commercial landowners from demanding that their land be reclassified as agricultural. "And since everything in the entire state of Colorado was at one time agricultural," he notes, "we could have some problems.

"It just seems to me that the whole concept of this bill is going way beyond the food chain of conserving open space and saving the family farm," he adds.

Johnson, who says she'll be surprised if her bill becomes law, concedes that, "To a certain extent, [the assessors] have a point. Part of the bill was outrageous. But what they're doing is outrageous."

SB 157 next goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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