Summit Daily editorial: Prop BB would allow cannabis bucks to bolster school spending |

Summit Daily editorial: Prop BB would allow cannabis bucks to bolster school spending

Summit Daily editorial
A caregiver picks out a marijuana bud for a patient at a marijuana dispensary in Denver. Tour companies have offered to start bringing marijuana tourists to Vail and Summit County. Marijuana industry advocates say marijuana tourism could surpass skiing's economic impact.
Ed Andrieski/Associated Press | AP

Colorado’s flourishing marijuana industry seems to be doing pretty well for itself these days. According to some estimates, it could be a $1 billion enterprise by 2016.

Colorado schools on the other hand? Not so great.

That’s why it would unthinkable to allow $66 million in marijuana tax revenue to return to a booming industry when most of those dollars could go toward improving education in Colorado.

When voters approved Amendment 64 in 2012 — and later Proposition AA in 2013 — they sent a clear signal that cannabis should be both legal and lucrative for the state, particularly when it comes to school spending. It was the classic sin-tax equation.

At the time, the preponderance of Colorado voters likely didn’t think the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights would later short-circuit that equation down the line. While we generally agree with the spirit of TABOR, it can be an absolute mess in practice.

One of the requirements of TABOR is a “Blue Book” for voters estimating how much a new tax will yield during year one. The book must also include projections for total state revenue for that year. For a marijuana excise tax, the revenue estimates were on target. However, the overall state revenue far exceeded the $12.08 billion due to gains in the overall economy. That’s where the $66.1 million comes in. Under TABOR, the state must refund the money by reducing the sales tax on cannabis until the target number is met.

The TABOR-triggered refunding of marijuana revenue was clearly an unintended consequence. Proposition BB is the necessary work-around. It deserves your support.

Here’s the breakdown: If voters approve Proposition BB, $40 million will go toward school construction. $12 million will go toward programs for marijuana education and substance abuse, youth programs, poison control funding, law enforcement efforts and the local government retail marijuana impact grant program. The rest of the money has not been earmarked for a specified use. (No, we don’t like this either. It’s crucial that the state bring more accountability to how the $66 million is spent in general.)

If Prop BB fails, $25 million will be disbursed to Colorado residents who file a 2015 state income tax return. The average amount returned will be a paltry $8 per resident. $24 million will go back to marijuana growers; $17 million will result in a temporary pot sales-tax reduction.

Pot growers and retailers have stayed out of the Prop BB debate. We’ll assume their silence indicates they’re just fine with increased school funding.

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