The Crestone Eagle • October, 2021

Saguache County, State of Colorado, place marijuana taxes on the ballot

by Lisa Cyriacks

Mail ballots will be arriving soon. The November 2 ballot for voters in Saguache County will have three statewide questions and two local initiatives.

Proposition 119 proposes an increase to recreational marijuana sales tax at a state level. The funds, if approved, would go toward supplemental after-school programming. The measure represents an increase of 5% by 2024 on the state’s current 15% sales tax on recreational marijuana.  Proponents would raise an estimated $137 million annually for tutoring programs, mental health care, career training and more, for children.

Marijuana groups worried about effects

Marijuana Industry Group has issued a statement opposing the measure, “While the cannabis industry strongly supports additional funding and further earmarking of existing cannabis taxes for education and mental health in Colorado, we feel strongly that our customers are not in support of the proposed tax. If this measure passes, Colorado cannabis shoppers could pay near or even above 30% in taxes—this is not a sustainable rate and is drastically more than customers pay for any other good in the state.”

Proposed property tax reduction

Proposition 120 proposes to reduce the property tax assessment rate from 7.15% to 6.5% on residential property, and commercial property tax assessment rate from 29% to 26.4%. The State is also asking to be allowed to keep and spend the $25 million revenue per year for five years for local government reimbursements.

Local governments and districts that are dependent on property tax revenue across the state are concerned about the resulting decreases in revenue. If passed, funding will decrease for local services provided by school districts, ambulance services, fire departments, libraries, and other public services.

Colorado lawmakers in the 2021 legislative session approved a bill designed to limit the impact of Proposition 119. The bill, SB 21-293, provided for $200 million in property tax cuts over two years and changed the tax code classifications from two categories to six. Proposition 120 is based on two tax code classifications making it difficult to predict how it would be implemented, if approved.

State Senator Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat and one of the sponsors of SB 21-293, said the state now has a two-year map for its property tax policy through the new law.

Amendment 78 transfers the power to appropriate custodial funds (State revenue not generated through taxes) from the State Treasurer to the State Legislature. These funds would include money that comes from the federal government and settlements through the Attorney General’s office.

The measure was proposed to allow multiple legislators weigh in through public hearings versus one person, the state treasurer, deciding on how the funds would be allocated. 

Opponents say that the proposed is unnecessary and redundant.  Most of these funds are settlements, which are dictated via court order; other funding, such as federal funds, is already discussed among the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee.

Countywide marijuana sales tax

Saguache County is also proposing an increase of 5% to both recreational and medical marijuana retail sales at dispensaries located throughout the county. The tax proposed would be used to fund new services, administration of marijuana businesses and miscellaneous County improvements. 

Northern Saguache County Library District Ballot Issue 6B

The library has placed a question on the ballot asking to be able to sustain their current level of revenue by adjusting their mill levy annually to offset losses sustained by proposed property tax assessment rate reductions for residential and commercial property under statewide ballot questions.

The library relies on the property tax revenue to provide services at both the Saguache and Crestone/Baca branches. Supporters of the library have submitted this question because they believe that the library services funded by property taxes cannot sustain a reduction in revenue.

If the property tax decrease in Proposition 120 is approved by voters, Ballot Issue 6B simply asks voters to agree to keep the amount they pay for the Library District at the current rate of the assessed value of their property.

Election timeline

October 8-15: Ballots are automatically mailed to voters with active registrations.

October 11: 22-day Colorado residency deadline. This is the latest a person can move to Colorado and still be eligible to vote in the November election. However, it isn’t the last day to register.

October 18: Wellington Webb Municipal Building opens as a voting location.

October 25: The last day to return a ballot by mail. After October 25, voters should only use official ballot drop boxes. 

November 2: Election Day! It’s the last day to cast your vote. All ballots must be received by Denver Elections Division by 7pm. If you’re voting in person, you must be in line by 7pm.

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