Ferry: Vote no on Amendment B
Amendment B proposes amending the Colorado Constitution to repeal the Gallagher Amendment. If passed, Amendment B would repeal the primary law governing how property taxation works in Colorado. Is that what you really want?
As I see it, the answer is simple. If B is defeated, your property tax rate will be 5.55%; if it passes, your property tax rate will be 7.18%. Sure sounds like a tax increase to me. It also prevents future drops in the residential assessment rates but any future increases will require a vote.
In 1982, Gallagher was voted in to control escalating residential property taxes. A ratio was implemented such that residential properties made up 45% of the tax collected while non-residential, aka business, made up 55%.
Some business owners currently feel they pay too large a share. But eliminating Gallagher doesn’t do anything to change that. Businesses will still be taxed at a 29% rate. It’s very important to note that while proponents of Amendment B are quick to point out that the current system puts a high tax burden on businesses, their proposal does nothing to address it.
But even worse, there is no stated plan in place as to what’s next. We know it will be an immediate tax increase on residential property, but then what? It’s simply the old adage “I’m from the government and I’m here to help —so trust me.” I don’t know about you, but me? I don’t trust the government.
Keep in mind, governments’ only goal is to fund their various budgetary requirements and they don’t care how that’s done. Maybe their first priority should be to look at cutting unnecessary expenditures to solve the shortage. Isn‘t that what you’d have to do? Why should their hand always be out when yours just gets slapped and asked for more?
Removing Gallagher in this unstable economic environment, when already 32% of homeowners are behind in their mortgage payments, is an irresponsible solution to a problem that can be fixed without increasing property taxes and amending the Constitution. Simply put, raising taxes on homes and apartments during this time is a very bad idea.
So now I’ll really get down to basics with a simple question. In good times, with cash flowing in, does the government ever send money back to you? Keep in mind, in the last five years, property tax revenue in Colorado has gone up 53%, and even in the current economic climate, it’s expected to go up another 10%. And that’s a statewide average. Imagine what that has been in the mountain communities like Vail.
But did the government ever say, “Wow, we’ve had a windfall, let’s share it with our citizens?” Call me cynical, but the answer is, not on your life.
And remember, Gallagher is responsible for giving homeowners a much-needed tax break as home values skyrocket Only because of the rapidly increasing residential values has the rate dropped. But you’re still paying higher taxes.
According to the Colorado property tax administrator, residential property owners will pay an additional $203 million in property tax increases in the first year if Amendment B passes. Over five years that number will be an astronomical $1.02 billion. What does government need that kind of money for when it’s questionable how elected officials spend the current funds.
Many government entities are claiming that the service levels they provide will suffer if we don’t pass B. And there’s a solution to that.
Simply go ask the voters for specific tax increases to address specific needs and shortfalls.
And to be fair, it’s also responsible to look at Gallagher in light of new information. It probably needs to be tweaked but it should not be eliminated. Maybe the 45%/55% ratio needs to be adjusted. Maybe the 29% on businesses should be reviewed. And perhaps it’s important to look at the different consequences of Gallagher as it relates to urban and rural areas.
But there is an over-riding philosophy that should take priority here. And make no mistake about it, it is simply wrong and frivolous to tamper with the State Constitution without a well-thought-out plan to take its place.
Call me old fashion, but I view the Constitution the same way I view the Bible — a sacrosanct document that is not tampered with lightly and certainly not when the consequences are unknown. Just because it’s inconvenient or difficult does not mean we should abolish it.
Gallagher got 65% voter approval in 1982. If we dump it now, what do you think the odds are of ever passing something like this again? I’d say zero. Zilch. Let’s protect it until we’re sure there’s a better option.
Vote no on Amendment B.
Kaye Ferry is the chair of the Eagle County Republicans.
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