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Outcome of Proposition BB will decide fate of $66.1M in pot tax revenue collected last fiscal year

October 12, 2015 Updated: October 12, 2015 at 9:10 pm
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Colorado voters will decide what should happen with $66.1 million in pot tax revenue that was collected last fiscal year.

If Proposition BB passes on Nov. 3, the state will retain the money and put $40 million into the school construction fund, among other things.

If the proposition fails, the money will be refunded to Colorado taxpayers, retail marijuana cultivators and marijuana buyers through a temporary sales tax reduction.

Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, sponsored House Bill 1367 that put the question on the ballot. He's also running the "Vote Yes on BB" committee.

"There was overwhelming bipartisan support to put Proposition BB on the ballot because we heard voters speak twice on this issue and we think they have been pretty clear and consistent," Steadman said.

The first vote was Amendment 64 in 2012. When voters legalized marijuana they also said that $40 million from a special marijuana tax would go to fund the state's school construction program. Voters approved a 10 percent sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana in 2013 called Proposition AA and again said the first $40 million from the excise tax would go to fund school construction.

But lawmakers underestimated in a public disclosure how much revenue the state would bring in during the 2014-15 fiscal year with and without the new tax. That mistake triggered required refunds unless voters give the OK next month for the state to retain the revenue.

Rob Corry, a co-drafter of Amendment 64, launched the "No on Prop BB" campaign three weeks ago.

"First and foremost Proposition AA was sold to voters and voters were duped, really," Corry said. "It said that we're collecting appropriate legal amounts of taxes and the government ended up over-collecting. You can't really trust the politicians."

Corry said that taxpayers are going to spend the money more "efficiently and effectively" than the government will.

And finally, Corry said taxes were set too high to begin with and are pushing customers to the black market for marijuana.

If Proposition BB fails the recreational marijuana sales tax will be reduced from 10 percent to .1 percent effective Jan. 1, 2016 until the state foregos collecting $17.1 million.

HB 1367 will reduce the special sales tax to 8 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2017 regardless of what happens to Proposition BB.

Steadman said it's untrue to categorize the error as voters being duped.

"A fiscal estimate proved to be wrong but that doesn't mean anybody was trying to trick voters or deceive anyone," he said.

The state's Legislative Council estimated the sales tax and excise tax would bring in $67 million. The taxes actually raised $66.1 million, just below the estimate.

But Legislative Council also estimated the state's total revenue would be $12.08 billion. It was actually $12.35 billion. That underestimate triggered refunds under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.

Vote Yes on BB has raised $8,200 and spent $6,124. Most of the funds have come from the medical community.

"They're very supportive of using the tax money from marijuana sales to mitigate some of the potential adverse consequences," Steadman said.

Vote No on Prop BB hasn't raised any money so far.

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Contact Megan Schrader: 286-0644

Twitter @CapitolSchrader

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