This Letter to the Editor is solely the opinion of its author.
It does not reflect the opinion of this newspaper.
We intend to present messages from both sides of the aisle.
By: Michael Fields
Don’t be fooled by the misleading ballot language: Amendment B would immediately increase property taxes, thus increasing Coloradans’ housing costs regardless if you own or rent. The worst time to enact a property tax increase is during a recession, but that’s exactly what legislators are asking to do.
Even with the Gallagher Amendment, we pay almost twice as much in property taxes than we did when it passed in 1982 (per capita, adjusted for inflation). Gallagher slows the growth of taxes, but as you’ve experienced, they still constantly go up. If not for this protection in our State Constitution, homeowners would have paid $35 billion more in property taxes over the years.
If Amendment B passes, our assessment rate (how much of our property is taxable) will be 7.15%. If it fails, it will be 5.88%. This means homeowners, renters, and at-risk families are estimated to pay an additional $500 million, just in the first year. Homeowners may struggle to keep up with their mortgage and taxes. Economic hardships would likely increase for fixed-income residents and at-risk families.
A recent newspaper article on Amendment B highlighted a senior citizen who was concerned that if her property taxes went up, her family might have to sell their house, which has been in their family for generations. That would be tragic.
Many families have suffered job loss, reduced hours, and salary reductions during the COVID-19 pandemic. A property tax increase is unaffordable for many Coloradans and attacks our most vulnerable populations amid an economic recession. It’s always important to remember that policies like these have real impacts on people’s lives.
And if Amendment B passes, what would come next? We don’t know. Legislators put a “temporary freeze” in place for a couple of years, but they have no long-term plan. They want to repeal a Constitutional Amendment without a replacement.
But even during this process, legislators have shown that they can’t be trusted. Not only did they write biased and confusing ballot language, but they also totally rewrote the “fair and impartial” Blue Book. In an unprecedented move, politicians at the Capitol overruled the non-partisan staff and inserted their own Blue Book summary in order to hide that Amendment B is a tax increase. Add on top of that the millions of dollars being spent on deceptive advertisements, it’s no wonder why a lot of Coloradans are skeptical.
Instead of passing Amendment B, there should be an effort to reform the Gallagher Amendment. Instead of taking a hammer to the whole thing, we should keep what works and fix what doesn’t. Instead of the state setting assessment rates for everyone, we should have a regional or country approach. Localities should decide their assessment rate, not politicians in Denver.
We also need to have an honest discussion about how much of the property tax burden falls on non-residential property. Instead of addressing this problem, however, proponents of Amendment B kept the exact same commercial assessment rate.
To put it simply: Amendment B is the wrong solution. Spare Colorado residents the extra financial hardship, tell legislators to try again and vote “NO” on Amendment B.
Michael Fields is the Executive Director of Colorado Rising State Action