Amendment B, repealing the Gallagher Amendment, is an uncompromising zero-sum situation for Colorado residents. This statewide proposition will raise property taxes, remove protections for homeowners and renters, and squash needed checks and balances in place to safeguard Colorado residents from state legislative action.
The Gallagher Amendment was put in place to fiscally benefit homeowners and renters. To estimate how much you’re saving on property taxes this year, multiply your current tax by three; if you’re paying $1,000 right now, then without Gallagher you’d be paying almost $3,000 in property taxes. Savings from the Gallagher Amendment have added up to $35 billion since it was enacted in 1982. There’s only one way to go if the Gallagher Amendment is repealed — and it doesn’t put more money back in your pocket.
If Amendment B passes, the first year of repeal will come with a high price tag that will impact residents across the state. The tax bill for 2021 will cost residents more than $203.7 million in additional taxes and will grow as time goes on. Unfortunately, sponsors of Amendment B have already failed to disclose this tax increase even though it’s required by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) in the Colorado Constitution.
Amendment B is not just repealing Gallagher, it is removing specific language in the Colorado Constitution that will inevitably lead to increased property taxes, higher rent and less housing affordability across the state. Gallagher constituted a 45:55 ratio that ensured residents would never pay more than 45% of the state’s property taxes. This, in turn, left nonresidential properties, such as commercial and industrial properties, to pay taxes on the remaining 55%. As business and home values fluctuate, assessment rates adjusted to keep the 45:55 ratio. The rate decreased from 21% in 1982 to 7.15% today and is expected to go down once more to 5.88% in 2021. If the Gallagher Amendment is repealed, homeowners can expect to pay an additional 10% to 20%, which is based on their home’s value, assessment rate and mill levy rates for the county and special districts. And, that’s just in the first year.
This checks-and-balance system of governing assessment rates and total value limitations has been essential to keeping residential property taxes low, impeding special interest groups from lobbying for tax breaks and giving local governments say in where property taxes are spent in each community. While homeowners and renters face tax increases, businesses could see decreases — we don’t know who will benefit and by how much because all of this becomes unpredictable if Gallagher is repealed. We’re going for an "all or nothing" proposition without having controls, such as the 45:55 ratio, in place.
Proponents of Amendment B see this statewide proposition as means to an end amid an economic downturn, but this isn’t the answer. We don’t know how or when residents are going to financially recover, and we also don’t know what the legislature will look like following Election Day; so, who are we to take away the only protections against property tax increases for Coloradans?
Additionally, proponents of Amendment B don’t have a future plan for residential taxpayers when Gallagher is gone. This is irresponsible, unstable, and as I’ve mentioned, costly. The ballot language proposing Amendment B doesn’t specify any of this — the lack of replacement, the increase in property taxes, the sense of control through the 45:55 requirement — nor does it explain what it’ll cost in the future.
While some proponents of the Gallagher repeal, or Amendment B, claim this ballot measure would help localities, it makes more sense to address these issues at the local level. Without a clear plan for what happens after Gallagher is repealed, cities and counties cannot plan for the future.
The bipartisan support behind the effort to educate voters on the pitfalls of voting to repeal Gallagher has rallied around the important concept of keeping housing costs low for homeowners and renters. Do not be misled by confusing ballot language. Let’s dedicate ourselves to preserving fiscal responsibility for our state by voting “no” on Amendment B this campaign season.
Kim Ransom, a Republican from Parker, represents District 44 in the Colorado state House.