Proponents of the Colorado pot tax hike obtain bipartisan help

DENVER – A coalition calling on Colorado voters to approve higher taxes on recreational marijuana to help children make up for learning losses during the pandemic and address the special needs of low-income and disadvantaged students, said Wednesday it was Approved by former Democratic and Republican governors.

Learning Opportunities for Colorado & # 39; s Kids is circulating petitions in hopes of collecting nearly 250,000 voter signatures by August 2nd, which will be needed to place their initiative on the November vote.

The campaign said former Democratic Governor Bill Ritter, former Republican Governor Bill Owens, state lawmakers from both parties, and a variety of educational and advocacy groups, many of whom care for black and Latin American children, have supported the effort.

Initiative 25 would create a Colorado Learning Authority within the state Department of Education to oversee after-school tutoring, English teaching, teaching for special needs and disabilities, mental health and careers, and technical education for children ages 5-17 to oversee children from low-income families and high school students who have not reached their grade level, through certifying tutors who can be teachers who do the work outside of regular working hours.

The funds cannot be used for in-school expenses or private school tuition and would be distributed directly to the tutors.

To pay for the program, supporters want voters to approve a 5% increase in excise tax on recreational marijuana by 2024 to generate more than $ 137 million a year. The sale of leisure tubs is currently subject to a government sales tax of 2.9% and a consumption tax of 15%, with some of the proceeds being used to build and maintain schools.

The planned tax increase is to be introduced gradually from next year. The agency would also take over some of the existing rental and license fee income paid for activities on state land and could seek external funding.

In April, Colorado consumers purchased approximately $ 166.5 million worth of recreational cannabis. Excise tax revenues on these sales exceeded $ 25 million, according to the Treasury Department.

The recreational marijuana industry is skeptical of the proposal, saying, in part, that continued cannabis tax hikes could encourage black market sales.

"This initiative helps improve the playing field and improve those for whom there are too few options," Papa Dia, executive director of Aurora-based African Leadership Group, which serves the African immigrant community, said in a statement.

"With LEAP, we can narrow the gap in opportunities between rich and poor, between students from homes where English is not spoken as their first or primary language, and between those who attend high-performing schools and those who don't," said Slide.

The initiative would complement Democratic Governor Jared Polis's focus on early childhood education, including expanding preschool and kindergarten education.