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Special legislative session ends without pot tax fix

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Lawmakers returned, but not to work. - ROBERT CICCHETTI / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Robert Cicchetti / Shutterstock.com
  • Lawmakers returned, but not to work.
Last week, as the Independent reported, Gov. John Hickenlooper called a special session for lawmakers to fix a technical error in the massive Senate Bill 267 that lawmakers passed at the last minute of the last legislative session. It was a catch-all piece of legislation spanning the hospital provider fee, revenue cap calculations, lease-purchase agreements for capital construction and transportation projects, highway funding, health care copayments and temporary tax credits for business property. Oh, and marijuana tax revenue. That’s where the error was: When lawmakers eliminated one tax and raised another, they failed to specify that special districts could still collect a portion of the tax revenue. Now, special districts like the Regional Transportation District and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District are losing hundreds of thousands a month.

Hickenlooper thought there was a political path to fixing the error in the tenuously negotiated deal, but the session reportedly devolved into finger-pointing, name-calling and vote-flipping. Republicans argued that the fix amounted to a change in tax policy, and would therefore violate TABOR, while Democrats called them obstructionists since the Colorado Supreme Court had previously affirmed legislators’ right to correct tax mistakes without voter approval. KUNC’s Bente Birkeland reported that some Republicans, including the Springs’ Sen. Bob Gardner, appeared willing to approve a fix but that, behind the scenes, Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing group funded by Charles and David Koch and the libertarian think tank the Independence Institute, pushed the constitutional argument hard. Ultimately, that’s what steered the Republican caucus. Senate President Kevin Grantham sent the bill to the transportation committee, where it died along party lines before ever reaching the floor, where there seemed to be enough votes to pass.

Fix or no fix, cannabis users are still paying more than they were before SB 267 took effect in July, since, regardless of special districts’ taxing ability, state taxes on marijuana were still raised from 10 to 15 percent.

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