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CO state gov’t profligacy may trigger pot tax refund

Posted by Richard on March 21, 2014

Marijuana legalization is looking better and better. The Colorado legislature, salivating over the prospect of more revenue, imposed high taxes on pot sales. Partly due to that and partly due to improvement in the Colorado economy, state government has lots of money to spend and is eagerly spending it. Good news for pols and their cronies, bad news for the rest of us.

Fortunately, Colorado voters many years ago enacted a constitutional amendment called the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR). Among other things, it limits annual spending growth — unless voters approve of excess spending in a referendum vote, the excess revenue must be refunded to taxpayers. To the Denver Post, this is a troubling prospect:

Colorado voters approved the sale of legal marijuana thinking the revenues derived would go towards areas like schools or treatment for substance abuse. Instead, it’s possible that the money may be returned to them.

A Tuesday economic forecast from the state’s Legislative Council said that state spending is trending higher than previously estimated. If that holds true, under TABOR statutes, the higher spending could trigger a one-year refund on any new sources of revenue — like the taxes on marijuana.

The Post reporter, Anthony Cotton, managed to find both Democrat and Republican legislators who share the Post’s dim view of TABOR and believe there should be no limit on how much of our money the government can seize:

“The idea of having to issue a refund or going back to voters hat in hand is disappointing,” said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, the vice-chair of the Joint Budget Committee, which hosted the briefing.

“The more I learn about TABOR the less I like it and the more insidious I think it is to state government,” said Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen.

Apparently, the Post couldn’t locate any legislators who disagree with this desire for unconstrained government. I know there are some — but I guess the Post doesn’t have contact information for those kinds of folks.

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