Coloradans came together to finally fix Gallagher
By Bernie Buescher
Iran for lieutenant governor in 1998 on an appeal to replace the Gallagher Amendment. Twenty-two years later, that dream is complete because a supermajority of legislators, a cavalry of committed citizens, and an army of community leaders said “enough, let's come together for Colorado.”
Our 2020 election provoked intense emotions. Partisan positions are so entrenched that campaigning often felt more performative than an attempt at meaningful persuasion.
Yet, with Amendment B, Coloradans from across the political and geographic spectrum came together to deliver the most significant fiscal policy change to our constitution in at least a generation. Amendment B’s passage is not solely a victory for liberals, conservatives, big cities, or small towns. It is a win for Colorado — and a testament to the pride and care Coloradans have for their communities and neighbors.
This collaborative approach to problem-solving began at the statehouse earlier this year. Four members of the General Assembly, Republicans Jack Tate, Bob Rankin and Matt Soper and Democrats Chris Hansen and Daneya Esgar, led a rare vote that included support from nearly 75% of the legislature. Together, they sent a clear message: Colorado needed to move on from Gallagher’s unfair approach to property taxes.
Progress, yes, but destined for failure without the cavalry. Amendment B took on one of the more complex topics in Colorado. The last attempt to repeal Gallagher in 2003 resulted in a decisive, 78%-22% defeat. Gallagher’s outdated and complicated formula for property taxes made its ouster even more difficult. Not only was it important for voters to understand how Gallagher worked, but also how it had stopped working in Colorado’s best interest.
Telling that story relied on engaging a diverse cross-section of Coloradans.
Enter Kent Thiry, Mike Johnston, Joe Zimlich, and Hank Brown. A fierce independent, two proud progressives, and a devoted budget hawk and former U.S senator. This group committed their treasure, time, and tenacity to a battle many people said could not be won. When Amendment B was referred to the ballot, I knew I needed to get Kent in the game. From previous successful ballot measures giving independents the right to vote in primaries, to fundamental redistricting reform, he is no stranger to the arena. He studies issues where he can make the most difference — where he can solve systemic issues — and then he goes big.
Of course, as Kent and the team will admit, they needed back-up. And boy did the army come. Facing a pandemic-triggered recession, Colorado businesses and workers — the engines of our economy — came together. The NFIB, Colorado Farm Bureau, AFL-CIO, chambers of commerce in Denver, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, Boulder, Greeley and so many more, shared their front-line perspectives. Voters heard from small businesses racking up debt in order to pay their disproportionate property tax bills, and growing concerns about keeping their doors open or bringing back staff post-pandemic.
Families navigating a challenging school year heard how Gallagher had continuously underfunded K-12 education. The Colorado Association of School Boards, Colorado Education Association (CEA), and Colorado PTA were unified. Great Education Colorado brought their grassroots network as well.
Destructive wildfires illustrated how fire protection is a critical first line of defense for life and property in so many communities. Colorado Professional Firefighters and fire chiefs throughout the state shared with voters how Amendment B would keep firefighters on the job and provide essential equipment.
Many of Colorado’s most trusted conservative and liberal voices came out in support of Amen. B.
This coalition delivered an essential tool to help our state recover from the challenges of 2020 and meet the challenges of the future. It is easier than ever to be cynical. I am heartened by, and appreciative of, the millions of Coloradans who passed Amend. B.
Bernie Buescher, a former
Colorado Secretary of State, helped lead the Yes on Amendment B campaign.