Problem-solving politics over partisan politics gets our attention. In The Durango Herald on March 5 and The Journal on March 9, guest columnist Kristi Burton Brown, chairwoman of the Colorado State Republican Party, offered a list of what she called “real solutions” from a 44-bill package unveiled on the first day of the legislative session. Republicans can deliver, she says.
Making Colorado affordable, one of The Big Three on the state GOP’s Commitment to Colorado pledge, tops our list, too. Is the question of how to do this an existential one, with no real answer? Is it too late? We hope not. We’ll listen to any ideas that lead to actual solutions. Republican and Democratic parties will both embrace the promise of making Colorado affordable this election season. We’re keeping eyes out on all candidates who can truly work across the aisles, who can take us in this direction.
And, note, before any real business around tax deductions or exemptions, we’ll follow the money. There’s more to talk about on each gain for each loss. We’ll consider specific programs that are currently tax-funded, question what is taxed appropriately and confirm clearly identified funding sources deep inside bills that are well-vetted. Success is in the details.
For now, here are some early, light-touch, developing responses to ideas on Brown’s list that we see as standouts. Democrats, take note.
* Expanding sales tax exemptions for food. Something worth exploring that would help families on a day-to-day basis. Different territory for Republicans. In Durango alone, applications are accepted for a Food Tax Rebate Program. Sales tax exemptions, though, are a different animal.
* Income tax deduction for renters. With sky-high rent, we support any financial incentives that keep roofs over the heads of our workforce and make it easier for them to stay in the area.
* Grant program for homeowners to create residential space for rentals. One attempt failed. State Sen. Paul Lundeen’s bill would have the government giving homeowners older than 55 a one-time payment of $500 to rent out a spare room, according to The Denver Post. But a Senate committee voted it down 3 to 2 on March 9. The “no” votes came from Democrats and the “yes” votes came from Republicans. Lundeen’s bill would have set up a three-year pilot program with tenants staying for at least six months. The bill would have cost up to $2 million with about a fifth of it going toward administration of the program. Maybe another version of the bill could work.
* Expand senior and veteran property tax exemptions. If it is need-based, we could get behind this.
* Allow 529 accounts to be used to pay student loans. Yes. Taxpayers don’t like to be told how to spend their money, especially when it involves education. This one feels long overdue.
* Help teachers pay for school supplies that they purchase. Republicans proposed a state-income tax credit. Parents in some school districts are asked to send supplies, such as tissues and hand sanitizer, at the start of the school year. Other forms of relief could come in fees or grants. More to talk about here.
This is a place to start. At the moment, we’re stepping around the other two of The Big Three — public safety and education — to address more fully later.
Making Colorado affordable will require work that will blur traditional partisan lines, which is a good thing. As the election season gains momentum, we’ll take deeper dives. At the moment, we appreciate any reach beyond rhetoric, any stab at impactful solutions. These ideas have merit. Democrats, we need engagement in making these a reality. Republicans, please say more.