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Opinion: Colorado bucks partisanship to repeal Gallagher Amendment

In 2003, Colorado voters were asked to repeal the state’s so-called Gallagher Amendment. Gallagher’s approach to property taxes was already starting to show signs of inadequacy. Yet, the promise of a slightly lower property tax rate in the future was too compelling and voters turned down the measure in a landslide, 78-22% vote.

When Amendment B made the Colorado ballot this summer, its opponents predicted a similar fate. By their estimation, Gallagher’s complex approach to property taxes made it a cause célèbre for policy wonks, and a near-impossible issue to explain to voters.

Well, congratulations, Colorado, for voting yes on B — proving our state can be a model for common sense, collaboration, and neighborly values.

Kent Thiry, Michael Johnston and Joe Zimlich

What did it take to pass Amendment B? Start with a rarity—bipartisan support of a tax-related measure in the legislature. A majority of Democrats and Republicans found agreement on a measure that, without hyperbole, represents the most significant fiscal policy reform to the Colorado Constitution in at least a generation.

At a time when it seems partisan politics makes agreement on anything resembling a tax policy impossible, Colorado lawmakers put their differences aside for the betterment of our state.

Despite the unity of elected officials, Amendment B was still a decision entrusted to voters. It would be very easy to assume that a state of diverse communities and political preferences would struggle to find common ground. But Amendment B showed that Coloradans of diverse backgrounds -– be it the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Colorado Education Association, or the Farm Bureau and the League of Women Voters– can come together.

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And in the end, a majority of voters in Boulder and Mesa counties, Denver and El Paso counties, Weld and Pueblo counties — and so many in between — came out in support of B.

After perhaps the most challenging year Colorado has ever seen – one that included a pandemic, a recession and historic wildfires — we were poised to cut funding to critical services and our schools.

But Coloradans stood by their hometown heroes, be they firefighters in Glenwood Springs who faced layoffs or the loss of equipment; small-businesses like Maria Empanada in Denver or JPM Prototype & MFG in Colorado Springs, who desperately needed property-tax relief; or frontline health providers, be they at a small hospital on the Western Slope or at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora.

This support illustrates Colorado voters’ ability to meet the moment and work together to solve our state’s challenges. Our economy, battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, now has a critical tool that will prevent deeper cuts to schools, fire protection, and many other local services. Colorado businesses can focus on working their way back, rather than bracing for ever-higher property tax bills.

Amendment B’s passage shows that Colorado voters are capable of not only taking the time to sort through complicated formulas and policies, but also to deeply understand how they impact their families and neighbors.

At a time when we are collectively uncertain about our economic and political future, Coloradans were less likely to ask, “what’s in it for me,” than, “what’s best for us.”

On behalf of the small business owners and employees, farmers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, health care workers, teachers, librarians, and families—thank you Colorado for coming together and voting Yes On Amendment B.


Kent Thiry, Michael Johnston, and Joe Zimlich served as co-chairs of the Yes On Amendment B campaign along with former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown.


The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to opinion@coloradosun.com.

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