City Councilman proposes new taxes on marijuana, lift ticket sales
Steamboat Springs — A Steamboat Springs city councilman is seeking support for two tax measures he feels are needed to improve city services and combat a local substance abuse epidemic.
Councilman Tony Connell specifically wants to ask voters in November to approve a 5 percent excise tax on the sale of recreational marijuana and an additional city tax on certain lift tickets sold at the Steamboat Ski Area.
The lift ticket tax would be used to support and enhance the local public transportation system and parking areas.
The additional marijuana tax revenue would be used for substance abuse programs, prevention education, mental health, counseling and law enforcement activities, Connell said.
He predicts a marijuana excise tax could generate $500,000 in 2017.
“We invest a significant amount of money in sidewalks and traffic improvement infrastructure for safety, but we have a safety problem that we invest relatively no dollars in to address the problem,” Connell wrote of substance abuse in a letter pitching the tax proposals. “This is a safety issue epidemic for our community that requires immediate attention and investment to address.”
Connell said he has been attending recent community meetings about local opiate abuse held by a task force.
“It truly is an epidemic, and to me, waiting to address (the issue of substance abuse) is not an option. We need to do something sooner,” Connell said Friday.
He said local deaths caused by drug overdoses now exceed deaths resulting from car crashes.
Connell noted a majority of communities that allow the sale of recreational marijuana have chosen to impose additional sales or excise taxes on the transactions.
The councilman suggested the additional funding in Steamboat could pay for such things as school counseling services, drug take-back programs, police assisted addiction recovery, family and group counseling services and drug and alcohol treatment programs and facilities.
“The city support will help our community, especially our youth, address the issues in a very collaborative manner,” Connell wrote. “Our local law enforcement efforts also will be supportive for innovative programming.”
Connell is also advocating a new tax on the sale of some lift tickets at the Steamboat Ski Area.
While he said the city currently receives a little more than $300,000 in annual contributions from Intrawest from the sale of food and beverage and miscellaneous sales outside city limits, Connell feels the Ski Area could contribute more.
He noted Vail Resorts contributes more than $4.7 million annually to the town of Vail through a lift ticket tax.
Citing data from councilman and economist Scott Ford, Connell said the city could generate roughly $2.7 million from a lift ticket tax on passes of 10 days or fewer.
Season passes would not be affected by the tax.
Ski Area officials have already come out against the idea.
“The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. has always been open to discussing community-wide issues, paying its fair share and working together toward solutions,” the ski area wrote in a statement in April. “However, placing an unfair tax burden and singling out one company is not that solution, and the resort would strongly oppose such a plan.”
Connell will make his pitch Tuesday to put the two tax proposals on upcoming council agendas for further discussion.
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