Our View: It’s time to fix the Colorado Constitution’s trickiest amendments (editorial)
September 25, 2018
Colorado's constitution holds a number of conundrums, thanks to the ease with which it can be amended.
Perhaps the biggest of these self-contradictions regards how state and local governments collect and spend revenue.
The first part of the knot is the Gallagher Amendment, which dates to 1982.
In its simplest form, the Gallagher Amendment sets in stone that residential property taxes may not exceed 45 percent of all collections. The remainder of the pie — 55 percent — is paid by nonresidential property.
That means as Colorado grows, homeowners pay lower rates, so the ratio can remain constant.
That's despite the fact that residential property in 2017 accounted for 75 percent of the state's total property value.
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The Gallagher split is good news for homeowners and bad news for those who own nonresidential property.
Complicating that formula is the 1992 Taxpayers Bill of Rights amendment.
In essence, that amendment sets limits on taxes and spending and requires voters to approve any tax increases.
Property tax rates can be reduced without voter approval, but raising those rates — even to maintain revenues at previous levels — requires voter approval.
The Gallagher Amendment is why the Gypsum Fire Protection District is going to voters again this year, two years after voters in that district approved a property tax increase.
The Greater Eagle Fire Protection District is also seeking voter approval for a property tax increase
The Gypsum request isn't for more money than voters approved in 2016, but to adjust rates to maintain that revenue stream.
Greater Eagle's request is to maintain revenue at current levels.
Both Gallagher and TABOR have staunch advocates and vocal opponents. But it's clear that the two, especially together, do local governments no favors.
It's long past time to fix the Gallagher and TABOR knot, but that would require yet another amendment to our state's much-amended constitution, and the political will doesn't seem to exist to forge a true compromise.
Until our representatives — or potential amendment supporters — can spout anything but party-line platitudes, we'll just have to keep voting.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart and Business Editor Scott Miller.
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