We devoted last week’s editorials to endorsements for the School District 51 school board. Today we delve into the countywide measures on the ballot and three questions that will be decided by voters statewide — though it’s a legitimate question whether the will of the voters even matters regarding two of them.
We urge voters to support Measure 1A and Measure 1C, which are related. Measure 1C authorizes marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities within unincorporated Mesa County and Measure 1A authorizes the county to impose an excise tax of up to 5% on the first sale or transfer of unprocessed retail marijuana.
Revenue from the new tax is expected to be no more than $752,000 a year and is to be used for mental health and substance abuse programs.
We support passage of these measures because they’ll allow local agribusinesses to enter a marketplace that has been kept closed to them. Now that Grand Junction voters have authorized retail marijuana sales within the city limits, passage of 1A and 1C will mean that local growers and processors could help supply those stores and others statewide. It’s a timely opportunity to acknowledge marijuana is here and it’s not going anywhere, so we may as well give county businesses an opportunity to cash in.
This issue was not unanimous with the editorial board with opposition centered around concern about noxious odors from grow operations. But odors are byproduct of many industrial processes and we trust that the county will formulate regulations to address those concerns.
This is effectively a symbolic measure to bring all state spending under the authority of the Legislature. It seeks to repeal the ability for certain “custodial funds” to be spent by state agencies, public colleges and universities and elected officials — even if those funds are earmarked for a specific use by the federal government or a legal settlement.
There are several downsides to changing how custodial funds are spent. It would cost at least $1 million annually for the bureaucratic oversight of bringing custodial funds under the purview of the Legislature and it could delay disbursement of certain funds when the Legislature isn’t in session. But as a practical matter, lawmakers could simply undo the amendment with a simple bill in the Legislature to revert back to the old way of dealing with custodial funds, rendering Amendment 78 moot. We say skip the headache and reject Amendment 78.
Like Amendment 78, Proposition 120 is an attempt to change fiscal processes with no assurance that those changes would stick. Backed by the conservative nonprofit Colorado Rising State Action, Proposition 120 originally sought to reduce property taxes on homes and businesses to the tune of $1 billion. But as the Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reported in Sunday’s paper, the Legislature overhauled categories of property for assessment purposes in the waning days of the session, thereby limiting 120’s impact. The changes it proposes would only apply to multifamily housing and commercial lodging.
Because of the bipartisan Senate Bill 293, Proposition 120 no longer reflects existing law, setting up the possibility of a court review that could render it moot, Ashby reported, citing an expert in state fiscal policy.
The bigger concern for us is that 120 could hurt local government agencies, especially in rural areas that don’t have the tax base or the rise in property values to offset reductions in property tax rates.
We urge voters to reject Proposition 120.
This is one more example of an attempt to wrest control of local finances from local government. Sure, a property tax reduction sounds great, but it forces local governments to ask for mill levy increases or cut services. We’d prefer for lawmakers and organizations pushing for ballot initiatives to stop treating property tax rates as a one-size-fits-all proposition.
This measure represents an idea that resonates across the political spectrum — providing financial aid to K-12 students for tutoring or enrichment outside of the public school system.
The measure would establish the Colorado Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress (LEAP) program, funded by a phased 5% sales tax increase on retail marijuana products over three years, plus an estimated $20 million annually from the state by moving money among the state’s permanent fund, the Public School Fund and the General Fund. The new tax is expected to generate about $137 million a year when it’s fully phased in.
Former Colorado Govs. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, and Bill Owens, a Republican support it. So do Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland, state House Rep. Matt Soper and state Sen. Bob Rankin, all Republicans. They’ve endorsed the measure, along with a host of educational organizations and community coalitions.
The $1,500 in annual funding per student would go to out-of-school instruction, with priority given to those whose family incomes are at or near the federal poverty level.
We think it’s a great idea, but the current lack of details of how the program would be created and implemented left some editorial board members concerned. A governor-appointed nine-member oversight board will develop qualifying criteria for the organizations and individuals who can be paid in exchange for providing educational services.
Another concern is that LEAP is billed as using “marijuana money” when existing state funds are also being tapped. But the tax hike on marijuana is clearly providing the lion’s share of funding.
We take comfort in the fact that support for LEAP is so widespread. Those with less faith in government will have to pore over their Blue Books to find satisfaction.