Our view: Tax proposal is noble but misguided | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Tax proposal is noble but misguided

At issue:

City Council will be exploring the possibility of asking voters to approve additional tax on the sale of alcohol, retail marijuana and smokeless tobacco.

Our view:

The issue of opiate abuse is a big concern in the community but it’s not a problem that can be solved by the city or a tax.

In the coming weeks, the Steamboat Springs City Council will be looking into the possibility of pursuing a ballot initiative to place an additional tax on the sale of alcohol, retail marijuana and possibly smokeless tobacco. The revenue generated by the new tax would fund substance abuse prevention and treatment in the Yampa Valley.

Our view:

The issue of opiate abuse is a big concern in the community but it’s not a problem that can be solved by the city or a tax.

Councilman Tony Connell first introduced the idea of a substance tax in early June. At that time, he was only proposing a tax on retail marijuana. Since that initial discussion, the council is now looking at also taxing liquor and smokeless tobacco sales.

The intention behind the proposed tax is noble, and we respect Connell’s desire to take on the concerning issue of opiate addiction in our community. But when we consider all the issues facing the current City Council, we don’t think it’s the city’s job to solve this particular problem.

We think groups such as the Rx Task Force, Mind Springs Health, Northwest Colorado Health and Yampa Valley Medical Center should take the lead on this issue — working together to pursue grants to support programs to educate young people and families about the dangers of prescription pills and to help fund addiction treatment programs.

If the City Council wants to get involved and support these programs, we’d rather see it allocate a portion of the taxes the city already generates from existing marijuana taxes and liquor license fees toward drug education and treatment efforts spearheaded by these local health organizations. They’re the experts in the field, and the city should let them guide the prevention and treatment effort.

In discussing a possible substance tax, Councilman Jason Lacy said the council needs to determine the specifics of how the tax revenue would be spent before going to voters, and that’s sage advice.

When Connell initially proposed the tax, he was talking about a 5 percent excise tax on retail marijuana that he estimated would generate about $500,000 annually. To Lacy’s point, taxpayers would want to know how every dime of that money would be spent, and we’re ultimately concerned the tax would not generate enough money to create the kind of extensive education, counseling, treatment and addiction recovery programs that will be needed to truly address the problem of drug abuse and addiction in our community.

As council members research a possible substance tax, we encourage them to evaluate what the city’s core services are and whether or not the city should add more to its plate.

We don’t view substance abuse education and treatment as a core city service, and therefore, we would not support a new sales tax to address this issue, even though it’s an important one.

And when we evaluate the overall appetite of voters to approve taxes, we don’t think it’s wise for City Council to expend its political capital on one more small sales tax when it could be looking at larger tax initiatives down the road.

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