New schools or a cup of coffee?

We say let the retail marijuana tax do what it was intended to do

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Wikimedia Commons/Doug Coldwell

In 2013, Colorado voters passed proposition AA, permitting the state to charge a retail marijuana tax as a follow-up to 2012’s Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana in Colorado. The passing of Amendment 64 and the subsequent passing of Proposition AA were enticing to voters because first, it made it legal to possess and consume cannabis and second, the additional state revenue generated by AA was earmarked to fund badly needed public school construction across the state.

The pairing of these two initiatives created a win-win whether you smoked pot or not. Sure, you may think your stoner neighbor is annoying, but when you realize his buzz is helping to build a new school for the kid who lives across the street, he doesn’t seem so bad (except when he mows the image of the Zig-Zag man into his lawn).

But here we are in 2015 and the whole beautiful marriage of pot and school construction is heading for an ugly divorce unless voters step up and make sure their original intent is fulfilled by passing yet another proposition — this time it’s Proposition BB.

And why is this necessary? Because, once again, common sense has run headlong into Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR as it is commonly referred to, usually sandwiched between two expletives.

As part of Proposition AA, the state provided estimates of tax revenue for the first full year the new taxes were to apply (FY 2014-15.) However, the revenues from these voter-approved taxes exceeded the estimates by $66.1 million. Due to the state’s constitutional spending limits (compliments of TABOR), unless we pass Prop BB on Nov. 3, the state will have to refund the school construction taxes it collected simply because it guessed wrong as to how much pot people were going to buy in the first year after the passage of Prop AA. This is the stupidity known as TABOR.

Instead of getting to spend $40 million on school construction and $12 million on state programs including marijuana education, anti-bullying campaigns, substance abuse and enforcement and another $14.1 million toward education yet to be allocated, TABOR would make the state write each of us an $8 check.

That’s right, if you vote for Proposition BB, education gets $66.1 million. If you vote against Prop BB you can buy yourself two cups of coffee and a pack of gum. You might even have enough change left over to buy an “idiot” sticker to put on your forehead.

All kidding aside, if BB fails to pass, an average of $8 per taxpayer would be refunded (a total of $25 million) and $24 million would be refunded to retail marijuana cultivators. The retail marijuana sales tax would also be cut from 10 percent to .1 percent until taxes are reduced to match the original estimates. Additionally, local governments would receive less from the state to address the effects of marijuana legalization on the community due to a decrease in tax rate from 15 percent to 7.5 percent until the 2014-15 benchmarks are reached.

Proponents argue these tax revenues express the intention of voters when Amendment 64 and Proposition AA passed. By refunding the excess taxes, valuable projects and programs would remain unfunded and a year of marijuana taxation would be wasted. Think of it this way; for a whole year, your dopesmokin’ neighbor will return to just being an irritant with no redeeming school-construction value.

Critics argue that Proposition BB is a temporary tax increase by disregarding the tax refund provision in the state constitution. They argue the state should have prioritized these program expenditures when estimating the potential revenue of Proposition AA. We think the critics are wrong.

Boulder Weekly supports the one-time tax refund exemption that Proposition BB proposes, as the refund to tax payers is minimal but the benefits to the education system is exponential.