DENVER – Colorado voters this November will be asked yet again to vote on a marijuana tax question, this time focused on retaining revenue.
Proposition BB asks voters to allow the state to keep $66.1 million in revenue stemming from marijuana taxes collected in Fiscal Year 2014-15. If the effort fails, the average refund would amount to about $8 per taxpayer.
Voters first approved taxing marijuana in 2012 when they legalized it. Amendment 64 required the first $40 million to go to school construction.
The following year, voters were asked to approve specific taxes through Proposition AA, which authorized excise and sales taxes on retail marijuana. Voters at the time received an estimate on revenue from the taxes.
But state revenue ended up higher than estimated in the voter guide. Because actual revenue exceeded the estimate, the state owes taxpayers a refund. The only way around it is if voters allow the state to retain the money, which is what led the Legislature to refer Proposition BB to voters.
If the measure passes, $40 million would go to school construction and another $12 million would be spent on youth programs and marijuana education. The remainder would be allocated by the Legislature.
If the question fails, $25 million would be refunded to Colorado taxpayers, $24 million to retail marijuana cultivators and $17.1 million to retail marijuana consumers through a temporary reduction in the 10-percent retail marijuana sales tax rate. Local governments would lose $6.3 million from the state beginning in 2016.
Unlike other ballot questions, Proposition BB is lacking publicity. Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, a lead proponent, has been traveling the state asking voters to approve it.
“Voters have been really clear ... they wanted $40 million to go to school construction, they wanted to make sure that we had the resources to properly regulate and oversee this new industry,” Steadman said.
Opponents, however, believe taxpayers are better off with the money, suggesting that taxpayers are being asked to pay for programs that they never asked for. Rob Corry, a marijuana attorney who is serving as lead opponent, pointed out that refunds would climb to as high as $32 for some taxpayers.
“Do you vote to give yourself $32? Or do you vote to give the government $32?” Corry asked. “It could make a difference to some people.”