Attendees to the Lakewood legislative group’s monthly town hall heard from both proponents and opponents of the two ballot issues voters will decide on Nov. 5.
Reps. Brittany Pettersen and Max Tyler and Sens. Cheri Jahn and Andy Kerr were on hand to host the discussion about Amendment 66 and Proposition AA.
Amendment 66 asks voters to approve a two-tiered income tax hike that would raise about $950 million for public school funding. Colorado’s current flat income tax of 4.63 percent would change to 5 percent for those earning $75,000 or less. Those above that mark would pay 5 percent on the first $75,000 and 5.9 percent on earnings above that.
Damion LeeNatali, chief of staff of Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, spoke in favor of Amendment 66, stating that the amendment focuses on three major areas — that the system is efficient, that people want to know where the money goes, and they want a return on investment.
“The amendment will lay out every line of where the money is going to go, so taxpayers can track every dollar down to the school level,” LeeNatali said. “Every four years we’ll also be able to look at the spending and see what changes should be made.”
Former Sen. Norma Anderson spoke against the amendment, saying that while the system for school funding needs changes, the 66 is not the answer. She said that adding it as an amendment to the state’s constitution is too permanent, and doesn’t allow for any legislative flexibility if things need to be changed.
“I don’t know how the legislature is going to balance a budget if it passes,” she said. “I think they need to go back to the drawing board and come back next year with something better.”
Proposition AA asks voters to approve retail pot to be taxed at 25 percent. There will be 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent retail tax on marijuana sales. Revenue from the excise tax will go toward public school construction, while the money collected from the retail tax will back the regulations that were enacted by the Legislature.
The 25 percent state tax does not include whatever local taxes might be imposed by individual municipalities.
Proponents in favor of proposition AA said that the tax is helping to meet the promises made by the passage of Amendment 64. They also added the taxes would only apply to those who purchase marijuana, and wouldn’t affect anyone who doesn’t.
Colorado attorney Sean McAllister spoke against the proposition, saying that he thinks the proposed taxes are too high, and not part of the original amendment.
“With excess taxation and local business bans, I think it might just drive people to the black market instead of regulated businesses,” he said. “If this doesn’t pass, we’ll still be able to have funding for marijuana regulation from another place, and there will still be sales tax on it.”
Residents had a lot of questions, mostly about understanding Amendment 66.
“I wanted to be here to try to understand 66 a little better and see where they are on the marijuana issue,” said resident Randy Little. “Now I’m able to see a little better about the tax, but I’m not sure I like where they’re going with marijuana.”