Local ballot issues: A ‘yes’ kind of year
November 3, 2013
Editor's note: This editorial has been corrected regarding Eagle's proposed "transaction fee" on recreational marijuana sales.
The Vail Daily's editorial board is made up of taxpayers, so when we recommend "yes" votes on tax increases, we're talking about taking money from our own paychecks. That fact, mixed with our generally suspicious natures, is why we're somewhat surprised to find ourselves recommending all of the tax increases on this fall's ballot.
We've devoted a full editorial to the topic of Amendment 66, the permanent state income-tax increase, and given it a qualified recommendation. This piece will cover the rest of the fall ballot.
• Let's start at the state level, with Proposition AA. This is the state-sanctioned follow-up to this past year's Amendment 64, which legalized the possession, use and retail sale of marijuana. This is the part that tries to fulfill Amendment 64's promise of providing revenue for school construction, by imposing a 15 percent excise tax on the wholesale sales of marijuana to distributors, and a 10 percent sales tax on retail transactions.
We have plenty of questions about Colorado becoming a center for retail marijuana sales, not least how to accurately track, and tax, the money generated from the business. Since marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, people in the business can't run their money through federally chartered banks — which is pretty much every bank in the country. That leaves marijuana businesses operating with cash and paying bills with money orders.
That said, if we're going to have legal marijuana, we might as well tax the stuff.
• Avon voters have a pretty simple decision to make with Ballot Issue 2A. Although it's called a "tax increase" for legal reasons, this measure essentially renews an existing property tax that was used to pay previous town debt. Money from 2A will finance debt issued to pay for an expansion of the town's recreation center, improvements at Nottingham Park and similar projects. If you vote "yes," it won't change your tax bill, and you'll get better parks and recreation. Sounds like a good deal to us.
• Red Cliff is looking at the prospect of a large drop in property tax revenue next year. That decrease in revenue is enough that the town might have to turn off its street lights if Ballot Issue 2H, a property tax rate increase, doesn't pass. The proposed tax hike is intended to raise enough money to continue paying the town's long-term debt on its water system. Town officials say the average increase — not quite $100 — pales in comparison to the water-rate increases that would be needed if the tax measure fails. This one seems easy, too — $100 per year in new property taxes, or roughly $600 per year in increased water bills.
• Red Cliff residents have mounted a challenge to the town council's intent to allow retail marijuana sales in town. But even those residents are encouraging a "yes" vote on Ballot Issue 2G. That measure would impose a 5 percent sales tax on pot. That's in addition to the town's existing sales tax, as well as new taxes imposed if state Proposition AA passes.
Again, you should pay if you're going to play.
• On the subject of pay to play, the town of Eagle is asking voters to impose a "transaction fee" of up to $5 per retail sale. The amount of the fee depends on the amount of pot purchased. Again, if we're going to have legal, weed, let's at least tax it enough to pay for regulation and enforcement.
On the subject of pot, the Eagle Town Board has put up Ballot Question 2E, the most craven ballot issue we've seen in years. This question asks voters to approve retail marijuana establishments in town. But residents in January of 2012 overwhelmingly approved a measure to overturn an attempted town board ban on medical dispensaries. Now they need to be asked again?
Give us a break.
And yes, we're recommending a positive vote.
• The Gypsum Fire Protection District has taken some big hits to its budget during the past couple of state-mandated property-valuation cycles. That's why it's put up Ballot Issue 4A, a property tax increase that will pay for new gear, repairs to the fire station and, most important, basic operating expenses.
As far as we're concerned, fire and police protection are two of the most important things we pay taxes for, and when we call 911, we want a fast, effective response.
The district this past year asked for a tax increase, but with uncomfortably vague language. That's been corrected in this second attempt, and we're convinced, for a number of reasons, that the district's need is real.
Please vote "yes."