Special session kicks off with partisan flair
Though many didn’t want to be there, state lawmakers met for a special session in Denver on Monday to address an error they made during this year’s regular session.
Senate Republicans, however, wanted nothing to do with it.
The error was inadvertently included in a bipartisan new law that, among other things, changed how the state levies sales taxes on recreational marijuana, eliminating the state’s 2.9 percent sales tax but raising its excise tax from 10 percent to 15 percent, which voters approved in Proposition AA in 2015.
As a result, several special districts were inadvertently barred from collecting the tax, including the Roaring Fork Transportation District, which serves Rifle and Glenwood Springs.
To fix the problem, Democrats in the Colorado House and Senate introduced identical bills making sure that those special districts that collect sales taxes could continue doing so.
“We consolidated two sales taxes on marijuana in an effort to make the whole system work more smoothly,” said Sen. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, who introduced one of the bills. “But when we did that, we inadvertently — this was nobody’s intention — eliminated certain special districts.”
Republican lawmakers on the Senate Transportation Committee that heard the bill rejected the measure on a 3-2 party-line vote. Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, was one of them.
Some Republicans objected to the proposed fix because they didn’t like the underlying new law, which went into effect July 1, while other GOP lawmakers didn’t like the idea of a special session because of the cost in operating it, saying the problem could wait to be fixed when the Legislature meets again next January.
It costs about $75,000 a day to operate the Legislature, most of which goes toward per diem pay to the 100 lawmakers.
Kagan, however, said by doing that, the special districts collectively would lose $2 million in lost revenue on top of the $600,000 they’ve already lost.
In addition to RFTA, which collected about $116,000 in taxes from recreational marijuana sales last year, the error impacted the San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation, the Gunnison Valley Transit Authority and the Montezuma Hospital District.
The other measure was approved in the Democratic-controlled House but it faces an uncertain future when it reaches the GOP-dominated Senate today.