We are rapidly approaching the end of session and there are still a lot of big issues to discuss. The first session of the 70th General Assembly will conclude on May 6, just a week from today. It usually goes that we discuss the biggest issues during the last days of session and this year is no different. We still have yet to discuss assessments and marijuana tax refunds, among others.
Big Issue 1: Retail Marijuana Tax Refunds
As you all know, especially if you’ve been reading my budget-related newsletters, the Colorado Constitution requires voter approval of new taxes. When a new tax is presented to voters for approval, the state is required to provide estimates of state spending without the new tax and the amount of revenue that the tax will generate during the first full fiscal year of the tax. If this new tax is approved and state spending or new tax revenue exceeds the estimate, the Constitution requires the state to refund the excess to taxpayers, unless the voters approve that the state can keep the money. The refund would happen the following fiscal year and is capped at the amount of revenue generated from the new tax.
In 2013, Colorado voters approved Proposition AA, which imposed two taxes on retail (adult-use) marijuana. Prop AA created a 15 percent excise tax on the value of marijuana when it is first transferred at the wholesale level, and a 10 percent special sales tax on marijuana purchased by a retail consumer. It was estimated in the Blue Book for Proposition AA that marijuana tax revenue would total $67 million and the actual collection should be about $58 million. This means the Proposition AA taxes are not violating TABOR, nor triggering the refund. The reason for the refund is because the Blue Book also estimated total state fiscal year revenue for 2014-15 to $267.3 million less than actual collections. Because actual collections exceed the Blue Book estimate, the state will incur a refund obligation for FY 2015-16 equal to the amount collected from Proposition AA taxes in FY 2014-15, currently estimated at $58.0 million. Senator Steadman (and resident budget expert) has introduced a bill, HB15-1367, that would bring the issue to the voters and ask them to let the money go to voter intended purposes. That’s what those who voted for Prop AA in the first place intended to happen. Keep your eye on that one, it should be interesting!
Big Issue #2: Assessments
There are still a number of bills out there aimed at reducing assessments and testing for Colorado’s students. The bill I’m carrying, SB15-056, has passed unanimously out of two committees and is still waiting to be heard by the full Senate. There are several other big assessments bills waiting to be heard, as well. All of the assessments bills this year come directly out of the HB14-1202 Task Force recommendations and are trying to implement the key recommendations. I am committed to continuing my efforts to reduce standardized testing looking out for what’s best for Colorado students.
As always, I encourage you to reach out to my office with any thoughts or concerns regarding legislation that you see or would like to see. I have always listened to my constituents, and will continue to do so, because that is the best way for me to represent you. You can reach me by phone at (303) 866-4859 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.