Opinion: Rushed public policy results in sloppy legislation
Montezuma County commissioner
I’ve learned that rushed public policy never benefits Coloradans and results in sloppy policy. With my experience and knowledge, I know Proposition EE will not aid us as we attempt to recover from economic doldrums COVID-19 has brought. The time to take a stand to keep Coloradans moving toward prosperity is now.
Did you know Proposition EE is a $294 million tax increase? Most likely not, as the Colorado Blue Book does not include this extremely important detail leaving Colorado voters with incomplete and misleading information as the November election approaches. Not only did the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly leave out one vital aspect, they also left out many other details including that the money promised for preschool will not be available for at least 2 1/2 years, if ever, and the money generated by Proposition EE, if passed, goes into the state’s general fund and is essentially a blank check for the Legislature.
House Bill 20-1427, the bill to get Proposition EE to the ballot, passed with little discussion and little public input. Now, proponents of the bill claim the revenue collected will go to preschool education. This is simply a trick to get Colorado voters to vote “yes” for EE without digging deeper into the details of the ballot initiative. In fact, there is nothing in the ballot language requiring the Legislature to spend tax revenues gathered from EE on preschool education.
Groups endorsing EE also claim that it will, if passed, reduce the percentage of smokers in Colorado. If the goal of Proposition EE is to discourage smoking, then all revenue collected from the tax should be used for that purpose. The majority of revenue gathered will not go to tobacco cessation. Instead, only a small portion will be spent on aiding Coloradan’s cessation efforts, and the rest will go to the state Legislature for unidentified projects.
Furthermore, Proposition EE nearly doubles the price of discount cigarettes through an anticompetitive, anticonsumer, state minimum cigarette price that is unlike the approach used in any other state. Discount cigarettes are primarily consumed by low-income adults. Therefore, EE targets low-income adults as it would retrogressively eliminate a high percentage of income from these individuals.
As a matter of fact, a fixed minimum price law like the one contemplated by Proposition EE has never been used by another state in America. Other states that have previously decided to legislate higher prices have done so proportionally, so the price differences sold by competitors are preserved.
Moreover, Big Tobacco was involved in drafting the legislation. To date, Big Tobacco has consistently opposed any tax increase and it saw an opportunity to negotiate a deal whereby it agreed not to oppose the state excise tax increase in exchange for the state imposing a new minimum price scheme. Coloradans deserve better.
Proposition EE is not well-written and will negatively affect more Coloradans than it will help. Even more egregious, the ballot question and Blue Book leaves out key proponents. Join me in voting “no” for Proposition EE.
Larry Don Suckla is a Montezuma County commissioner.
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