Colorado voters to decide on raising marijuana sales tax

·4 min read

DENVER (AP) — Colorado voters will decide in Tuesday's election whether to raise the sales tax on marijuana to fund out-of-school programs, such as tutoring, technical skill training, mental health counseling and enrichment programs in the arts.

That question is one of several posed to voters around the state on ballot initiatives this year that also include a measure that would limit how many unrelated adults can live together in Denver and another that would limit governors' power to spend funds from outside sources like the federal government.

A look at a few of the most interesting ballot initiatives:

MARIJUANA SALES TAX INCREASE

The measure would increase the state’s retail marijuana sales tax rate from 15% to 20% over the next three years. A majority of “yes” votes would create a governor-appointed board to administer the program, which aims to provide educational and enrichment opportunities with after-school programs and tutoring. The program would prioritize eligible Colorado children 5 to 17 years old whose families are at or below the poverty line.

Proponents of the initiative say it's timely and necessary due to the educational gaps worsened by the pandemic and even more so for students of color, those from low-income families and students with special needs.

The group “No on Prop 119” says that it takes already-limited funds away from public schools and it would create a private-run board with no oversight or accountability with out-of-state interests.

ROOMMATE LIMIT

The Denver ballot initiative would repeal a group living amendment, passed by the city council, which increased the number of unrelated adults who can live together. The amendment changed the city’s zoning code to allow up to five unrelated adults to live together in a single home rather than the current limit of two. The amendment also allowed residential care facilities such as halfway houses for substance abuse programs to operate in more parts of Denver.

Groups like the grassroots campaign Denver Safe and Sound have raised concerns that an increase in roommates and residential care homes would negatively impact the quality of life in neighborhoods, bringing more congestion, overcrowded parking and more trash. “Keep Denver from becoming like Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco,” the campaign’s website states.

But those against the repeal argue that the amendment takes away affordable housing options and makes it harder to live in Denver, one of the most expensive booming cities with a continuously increasing population over the last decade.

GOVERNORS' POWER TO SPEND FEDERAL FUNDS

The constitutional amendment would require legislative approval for the state to spend money received from outside sources, such as the federal government or legal settlements.

A conservative group sponsored the initiative after Democratic Gov. Jared Polis used his executive powers to distribute nearly $1.7 billion of federal COVID-19 relief funds in May 2020.

Michael Fields, executive director of Colorado Rising Action, an organization promoting conservative policies, is spearheading the measure, arguing that Gov. Jared Polis’ allocation of federal pandemic funds were not transparent. In an Colorado Politics opinion piece, Fields calls for an elimination of “executive branch slush funds.”

However, opponents argue that limiting the appropriation of federal money puts more work on the part-time Legislature and creates more bureaucracy, which could delay the state’s spending in an emergency like a pandemic.

HOMELESS CAMPS

Election officials will still count the votes for a Denver ballot initiative that would have allowed residents to sue the city for a slow response to homeless encampment clean-ups, even though a judge ruled Sunday that the time limit was unlawful and should be removed.

The measure originally allowed people to sue the city if officials don’t clean up an encampment within 72 hours of a complaint.

Even if it passes, the part that would have allowed residents to sue the city for a slow response to homeless encampment clean-ups won’t be enforced, said Jacqlin Davis, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office.

The amended ballot question still asks voters to decide on creating up to four city-funded camping locations authorized on public property with required running water, restrooms and lighting. But local homelessness advocates say four sanctioned sites still isn’t enough to address the scale of the problem.

The Associated Press

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