Now that Colorado lawmakers have put Gallagher repeal on the ballot, will they actually be able to pass it? |

Now that Colorado lawmakers have put Gallagher repeal on the ballot, will they actually be able to pass it?

Already trouble signs are emerging signaling that would-be allies lack the enthusiasm needed to sell the 2020 electorate on a difficult ballot question

Brian Eason / Colorado Sun
The Colorado State Capitol Building on Jan 19, 2019.
Eric Lubbers / Colorado Sun

When the General Assembly two years ago agreed to study the state’s dysfunctional property tax code, reform advocates were optimistic that years of warnings would finally lead to action.

A bipartisan panel came up with a variety of options to repeal and replace the Gallagher Amendment, the constitutional measure that for decades has squeezed essential local services, like first responders and schools, in order to keep residential property taxes low. But at the culmination of the study, lawmakers threw up their hands. The task of devising a compromise with broad appeal, they concluded, was politically impossible.

“I think it kind of died of its own weight,” recalled Gini Pingenot, the legislative director of Colorado Counties Inc., which has long advocated for property tax reforms.

Then came the coronavirus. Faced with a deepening state budget crisis, lawmakers last month voted 79-20 to ask voters to repeal the Gallagher Amendment and forgo an estimated 18% residential property tax cut that’s slated to kick in next year. It was a stunning rebuke of the political conventional wisdom, which has long held that Gallagher, because of its popularity with homeowners and its uneven effects on different communities, is simply too complicated to fix.

However, now that the effort is shifting from the statehouse to the campaign trail, those complications that doomed past efforts have come back into focus. The authors of the repeal bill say they’ll have the support needed to mount a strong ballot push, and told The Sun to expect a campaign launch by the end of the month — possibly as soon as this week.

“I’m feeling confident there will be adequate resources for us to run a campaign,” said Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver. “We’ve got folks who have been working on Gallagher for decades who see this as our best opportunity to do a repeal.”

To read the rest of the Colorado Sun article, click here.

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