Marijuana, other taxes crowd this fall’s ballot
Ryan Summerlin October 10, 2013
Odd-numbered years in Colorado put the focus almost exclusively on financial matters at election time, but there are a few candidate elections, too.
Voters in Eagle County will have a mail-ballot election for two state tax questions and a board election for Colorado Mountain College. The rest of the ballot is dedicated to local issues in Eagle, Gypsum, Avon and Red Cliff. Voters in Basalt and the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District also have local questions to answer, but this story won’t include those issues.
Here, then, is a quick look at what’s on this fall’s ballot:
Voters are being asked two questions on the same topic — marijuana. Ballot question 2E asks voters if they want to allow retail marijuana stores in town. Voters solidly approved a similar question about medical marijuana dispensaries in early 2012. Ballot issue 2F asks voters to approve an up to $5 per transaction charge on retail marijuana stores and wholesale transactions.
Gypsum Fire Protection District
Voters are being asked for a property tax increase, with the intent of restoring district revenues in the face of two cycles of declining property values. The ballot question states that the district will use the roughly $360,000 per year to continue operations, replace equipment for firefighters, replace aging fire trucks, repair the station’s concrete floor and other uses.
Like a similar 2012 question for the Avon-based Eagle River Fire Protection District, this tax increase has an expiration date. In Gypsum fire’s case, the tax would expire at the end of 2020.
All Colorado voters are being asked to decide a couple of tax questions.
Amendment 66 asks voters to change the state’s constitution in order to raise taxes to support the state’s schools, excluding colleges. If approved, the amendment would raise roughly $1 billion per year through an income-tax increase. That increase would be levied on everyone who pays state income taxes, but those earning more per year would be taxed at a higher rate.
If voters agree, then the amendment would also fund preschool programs in the state. The tax measure would also repeal the state’s Amendment 23, which mandated annual increases in state spending on schools.
Voters are also being asked to approve Proposition AA, a kind of follow-up to 2012’s Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use in the state. Part of supporters’ pitch to voters last year was that legalized marijuana would be taxed, with the money going into the state’s education fund.
Proposition AA would impose a 15 percent excise tax on the sale of marijuana from growers to retailers. It would impose a 10 percent sales tax on retail pot sales.
Given the statutory requirement to put a dollar amount on any tax question, Proposition AA claims it will raise taxes by $70 million per year from those taxes. The first $40 million of the money raised would be used for public school construction projects. Money raised from the retail sales tax would be used for enforcing regulations.
Colorado Mountain College has a board election this fall. There are three director seats up for election, but only one of those races — for District 3, which includes western Garfield County — is contested. In that district, Mary Ellen Denomy and Jay Rickstrew are competing. Glenn Davis is running unopposed in District 7, and Charles L. Cunniffe is running unopposed in District 1.
Like Eagle County commissioner elections, voters throughout the seven-county district vote for candidates in every director district.
Vail voters this year will choose at least two, and as many as four, new members of the town council. Incumbents Susie Tjossem and Greg Moffet are both running for re-election, but current council member Kevin Foley is ineligible to run for another term due to the town’s term-limit rules. Fellow incumbent Kerry Donovan decided not to run for another term in order to concentrate on a 2014 run for the Colorado Senate.
Besides Tjossem and Moffet, Vail residents Jenn Bruno, Meighen Lovelace, Sounia Nejad Chaney, Dale Bugby and Dave Chapin are running for council. That election is Nov. 5, and Vail voters will participate in an old-school, polling-place election that day.
Voters are being asked to increase their property taxes by roughly $1 million per year in order to fund about $12.5 million in new debt. That debt would be used to finance “recreational improvements” around town, including at Nottingham Park and the Avon Recreation Center.
The tax would extend a property tax levy that first paid for the town’s roundabouts. That debt has been paid. The proposed tax would also impose a slightly higher tax above the existing levy.
The town is asking voters for a marijuana sales tax of up to 5 percent on retail transactions and a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale transactions. Town officials put $50,000 in the “shall taxes be raised by …” line of the ballot question. The town’s entire budget is about $250,000 per year.
Town officials would use the money — expected to come almost entirely from non-residents buying pot in town — to beef up the general fund.
Red Cliff voters are also being asked for a property tax increase that would bring the town’s revenue from that source back to 2010 levels.