Colorado to vote on repeal of Gallagher Amendment

The Colorado Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2020 ballot that would repeal the Gallagher Amendment of 1982. The Gallagher Amendment limits the residential and non-residential property tax assessment rates so that residential property tax revenue equals 45% of the total share of state property tax revenue and non-residential property tax revenue equals 55% of the total share of state property tax revenue.

Under the Gallagher Amendment, property tax assessment rates were initially set in the state constitution to be 29% for non-residential property and 21% for residential property. The residential assessment rate was adjusted every two years so as to maintain the 45%-55% split between the total share of property tax revenue. The current residential property tax assessment rate is 7.15%.

The legislature also passed a companion bill, Senate Bill 20-223, which would take effect if voters approve the constitutional amendment. Senate Bill 223 would prohibit the legislature from changing assessment rates for property, thereby freezing the current rates of 7.15% for residential property and 29% for non-residential property. Under the Gallagher Amendment, property tax assessment rates were expected to decrease. Therefore, removing the Gallagher Amendment and freezing property tax rates at current levels was expected to result in higher residential assessment rates than under the Gallagher Amendment.

The amendment was introduced in the Senate on June 1, 2020. The measure’s primary sponsors were Senators Jack Tate (R) and Chris Hansen (D) and Representatives Daneya Esgar (D) and Matt Soper (R). The measure was passed by the Senate on June 9 in a vote of 27-7 and was passed by the House in a vote of 51-14 on June 12, 2020. All no votes came from Republican legislators.

Coloradans are set to vote on a total of eight ballot measures in November. However, the state legislature passed a bill that would delay one of the measures, a transportation bond issue, to the 2021 ballot if signed by Governor Jared Polis (D).

In addition, 14 citizen initiatives have been cleared for signature gathering in Colorado with signatures due by August 3 to qualify for the 2020 ballot.