City Council votes down sin tax proposal
Steamboat Springs — Saying the proposal is not ready for prime time and may need a champion other than the city government, the Steamboat Springs City Council has decided not to send a sin tax to voters this year.
In a close 4-3 vote, the council voted down a proposal to ask voters to approve an additional 2 percent tax on the sales of marijuana, alcohol and smokeless tobacco in the city limits.
The revenue generated from the taxes would have been spent on substance abuse treatment and prevention efforts.
Several council members who voted down the proposal on Tuesday suggested they would be open to considering a similar tax proposal next year, but several questions needed to be answered first.
“This is a very important topic. I fully support it, but I’m not sure we’re ready to put it on the ballot,” Councilwoman Kathi Meyer said.
Meyer said there still wasn’t a clear outline of how the money would be spent.
Councilman Jason Lacy said he too supported efforts to prevent and treat substance abuse, but he said he had several unanswered questions about the tax proposal, including whether the proposal sought the appropriate amount of revenue.
“The last thing I want to do is take it to the voters too early and then we strike out, because it’s really hard to come back from that,” Lacy said.
Councilman Scott Ford said a champion other than the council should bring such a tax forward.
He said the tax was not addressing a core service of the city government.
“Although I am sympathetic to the problem, council should not be the driving force behind this tax,” Ford said.
In its report on the tax proposal, city staff noted it did not directly address any of the council’s adopted goals.
Councilwoman Robin Crossan challenged residents who wanted to address the issue of substance abuse to band together, form a coalition and come up with a plan for potential tax revenue in the future.
Based on data provided from city staff, council members were anticipating the tax could generate an estimated $750,000 next year.
Several members of the medical community, including Yampa Valley Medical Center CEO Frank May, have spoken in favor of a tax proposal to generate more revenue for substance abuse prevention efforts.
The council on Tuesday heard from both supporters and opponents of a potential ballot measure.
Kevin Fisher, the co-owner of Rocky Mountain Remedies marijuana dispensary, told the council he didn’t think marijuana should have a place on the ballot measure.
He shared data from recent surveys that showed youth marijuana use was not on the rise in the area after the legalization of medical marijuana.
“We have to get rid of ginning up fear” about marijuana, Fisher said.
Council President Walter Magill joined council members Tony Connell and Heather Sloop in trying to advance the tax proposal to a second reading later this month.
“I think when you have an issue in the community, it’s up to the community leaders to address that issue,” Magill said.
Connell proposed the tax proposal and appeared to be the most passionate about putting it on the ballot.
Connell and other community members have expressed concern and alarm about an opioid abuse epidemic that has resulted in the loss of community members.
Connell said the tax proposals could help to combat that epidemic.
“This brings the conversation about mental health and substance abuse out of the shadows,” Connell said.
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