Amendment E: Extend homestead exemption to Gold Star spouses, explained

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Crested Butte on the Western Slope, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. The American flag flies on a downtown business.

This amendment would allow gold star spouses to claim a property tax break that exempts 50 percent of the first $200,000 of their home’s value from taxation.

A gold star spouse is the surviving husband or wife of a military member who died in the line of duty or from injuries or disease related to service. The state estimates 490 gold star spouses could become eligible for the exemption if this amendment passes.

Currently, the homestead exemption is eligible to Colorado homeowners who are:

  • 65 years or older and have lived in their home for at least a decade
  • A veteran with a service-related disability that’s considered permanent and total by the federal government
  • The surviving spouse of a qualifying homeowner after they die, as long as they continue to live in the home

In 2021, more than 266,000 seniors and approximately 9,000 veterans claimed homestead exemptions. Their average tax reductions were $587 and $617, respectively. 

State lawmakers unanimously referred Amendment E to the ballot. It needs 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning the extension of the property tax exemption for qualifying seniors and disabled veterans to the surviving spouse of a United States armed forces service member who died in the line of duty or veteran whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease?

How would it work?

  • If Amendment E passes, gold star spouses could claim a Homestead Exemption on a house they own and live in. This generally translates to saving a few hundred dollars a year in property taxes
  • Counties would not lose that revenue; the state reimburses the cost of each homestead exemption. To reimburse counties, Amendment E would increase state spending by $288,000 in state budget year 2023-2024

Who’s for it?

Proponents of Amendment E argue that it pays respect to the spouses of service members who lost their lives in service to the U.S. military. It also provides relief through a tax exemption, as gold star spouses may suffer financial hardship after their spouse’s death. 

State Sen. Paul Lundeen sponsored the legislation that got the amendment on the ballot. He heard gold star spouses, many of whom live on fixed income, describe how this tax exemption could benefit them. 

State Rep. Cathy Kipp is another primary sponsor in the state legislature. She began supporting this tax exemption after one of her constituents approached her with his experience. He’s a disabled veteran who can claim homestead exemption.

“(He said): ‘I lived. Had I died, my wife would not be able to get this exemption. Why is that okay? Why should she not be eligible just because I survived to get the benefits?’” Kipp said. “That was really a good question, and it deserves to be fixed.”

Who’s against it?

The state legislature referred this amendment to the ballot with wide bipartisan support, and as of publication, there are no registered issue committees against it. 

However, some argue that this amendment excludes gold star spouses who don’t own homes, and thus is not equitable. Opponents also take issue with the provision to provide gold star spouses with a benefit currently given to permanently disabled veterans, as the exemption is meant to assuage some of the employment difficulties or discrimination connected to their disability. They argue that gold star spouses do not face the same limitations when seeking employment.