Our view: Say ‘yes’ to Proposition BB
The state of Colorado owes its taxpayers a refund, and the first Tuesday in November, those same taxpayers will tell the state how they’d like to receive that refund — as a little cash now, or as a substantially larger return on a collective investment in the future.
On Nov. 3, voters will be decide the fate of Proposition BB — the only statewide measure on the ballot this year — and how those voters cast their ballots will determine the future of
$66.1 million in tax revenue generated statewide last year by the sale of recreational marijuana.
Proposition BB is easily misunderstood. Although initiated on referral from the legislature, the measure does not propose a new tax or even modify the collection of an old one. Instead, it asks permission for the state to spend excess tax dollars it collected last year from the sales of marijuana and is constitutionally bound to return in the absence of such permission.
The Colorado Constitution requires the levy of any new tax be approved by voters based upon two Blue Book estimates provided by the state: overall projected state revenue subject to constitutional spending limits and total projected revenue to be generated by the proposed new levy.
If actual numbers exceed either of these estimates, the Constitution provides that excess collections are to be refunded up to the amount collected by the new levy.
And while actual tax revenue collected from the sale of marijuana last year came in slightly less than the 2014 Blue Book estimate — $67 million projected versus $66.1 million collected — overall state revenue for the same period came in at $12.35 billion, $270 million more than the Blue Book estimate of
So constitutionally, the state owes us the refund, and with Proposition BB, it is asking our permission to spend the money instead of giving it back.
We think voters should give that permission.
While opinions on Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana are as varied as they are deeply held, the tax revenue generated by its sale is undeniable and substantial, and it is incumbent upon us to put these funds to their best possible use.
If Proposition BB passes, $40 million will go directly to school construction and $12 million will be divided among the following:
■ Marijuana education and prevention campaigns
■ Bullying prevention school grants
■ Drop-out prevention school grants
■ Youth mentoring services
■ Poison control centers
■ Local government marijuana impact grants
■ Substance abuse screening, intervention and referral
■ Substance abuse treatment
■ Future Farmers of America and 4-H programs at the state fair
■ Roadside impaired-driving enforcement training for police.
The remaining $14.1 million has not yet been allocated.
If Proposition BB fails, that money will be returned to taxpayers, with
$25 million going to full-time Colorado residents who file a 2015 tax return, $24 million refunded directly to retail marijuana cultivators and $17.1 million refunded to marijuana purchasers through a temporary reduction in the marijuana sales tax.
For the average Colorado taxpayer, the refund would amount to between $6 and $32, dependent upon income level and filing status.
So on one hand, we have $40 million for school construction and another
$12 million for beneficial and needed programs, and on the other, we have a one-time and relatively inconsequential tax refund.
And while we’d like to know more about how the state plans to spend the unallocated $14.1 million, we think the potential benefits of approving Proposition BB — new schools, enhanced school programs and money for substance abuse screenings and treatment — far outweigh its defeat, which would result in a sizable tax refund going to an already highly lucrative industry and a woefully small refund to the average Colorado taxpayer.
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