Our view: Vote ‘yes’ on Amendment B
Amendment B is a proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution that would repeal the Gallagher Amendment, which sets residential and commercial property tax assessment rates. It’s a complicated issue, but we believe the measure deserves voter support.
In a nutshell, Gallagher is a property tax-limiting provision of the state constitution that mandates the amount of property taxes collected on homes must always be lower than the amount collected on nonresidential property, and it limits residential properties to 45% of the statewide property tax base. As a result, commercial property owners currently pay property taxes at a rate four times higher than residential property owners.
Gallagher is a 40-year-old formula that is outdated, unfair to businesses and continues to have far-reaching, unintended consequences. When Gallagher was passed in 1982, it was designed to address the issue of rising property taxes for homeowners by shifting a fair portion of the property tax burden to businesses.
Under Gallagher, residential property can’t make up any more than 45% of the overall tax base, with nonresidential properties making up the remaining 55%. When both home ownership rates and home values rise faster than those for business properties, Gallagher requires a cut to the residential assessment rate.
In 1982, when Gallagher was passed, residential properties were assessed at a rate of 30%. Today, homes are assessed at 7.15% of their market value, while businesses still pay 29%. If the residential rate falls even further next year as projected, businesses would end up paying nearly five times the property tax rate of residential property owners.
At issue: Voters are being asked to consider Amendment B, a measure that would repeal the Gallagher Amendment.
Our View: Amendment B is a timely remedy to an outdated tax formula that puts undue burden on commercial property owners in the state of Colorado, so we encourage voters to vote “yes.”
- Logan Molen, publisher
- Lisa Schlichtman, editor
- George Danellis, community representative
- Kevin Fisher, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.
In the current economy impacted by COVID-19, many small businesses are struggling. These businesses are the engines of economic recovery that we need, and the provisions set forth in Gallagher are creating too heavy a load for local businesses to carry. By repealing Gallagher, residents would be providing our business community with some very timely relief.
Decreasing residential property assessment rates also has served to cripple the budgets of many taxing entities in rural Colorado, like fire protection districts, libraries and Colorado Mountain College. In the past few years, we’ve seen a number of these entities place individual issues on the ballot asking voters to freeze assessments and adjust the districts’ mill levies to compensate for Gallagher-triggered revenue decreases.
Back in 2018, when these issues began appearing on the ballot, the Steamboat Pilot & Today Editorial Board implored state legislators to come up with a permanent fix, and we think Amendment B is the answer, putting an end to this piecemeal approach, offering a statewide solution and preventing further declines in funding local government services like fire and police protection.
Amendment B has garnered widespread bipartisan support at a time when our country is increasingly politically divided. The Senate passed the measure by a vote of 27-7, and the House passed it 51-14. It should also be noted that every Republican legislator on the Western Slope supports this measure, as Gallagher disproportionately affects our area more negatively than it does the Front Range.
For those who are concerned passage of Amendment B will mean their property taxes will rise, the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, known as TABOR, is still in place and ensures that tax rates cannot be raised without a vote of the people. Amendment B freezes tax assessment rates at the current rate — 7.15% for residential property and 29% for non-residential property — a solution that we believe helps create economic stability during a time of extreme uncertainty for business owners and residents alike.
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