Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper promised an interviewer from ABC News that revenue from a recreational marijuana tax would not be used to fund public education, even though that’s precisely what part of the tax is meant to do.
“We have a healthy tax on the ballot this fall to really make sure we can regulate it properly,” Hickenlooper is quoted as saying. “We don’t want to make a profit. We’re not going to take marijuana taxes and put it toward public education or anything like that.”
If voters approve Proposition AA in November, marijuana will be levied with a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent special sales tax. Local municipalities can also vote to add on their own taxes.
While much of the tax revenue will indeed be used to fund regulation of this first-of-its-kind industry, the first $40 million gathered from the excise tax is required to be spent on school construction. That provision was written into the amendment that legalized marijuana and is now part of the state constitution.
Conservative group Compass Colorado, which is opposing another Hickenlooper-backed ballot initiative to raise income tax by nearly $1 billion to fund education reforms, pounced on the governor’s comment as “shocking.”
“The fact that Gov. Hickenlooper, our state’s chief executive, doesn’t even know what’s on the ballot is, frankly, shocking,” said Kelly Maher, the group’s executive director, in a press release.
“This is simply another facet of his poor leadership,” she said. “His statement should cause Coloradans to question whether he has a firm grasp of other critical ballot issues.”
A Hickenlooper representative told the Denver Post that he is aware of the school construction provision of the tax plan, but was making a distinction between building schools and funding instruction.
“Public education is not the same as school construction,” spokesman Eric Brown told the newspaper. “The governor didn’t say the money goes into the classroom. We know some of the money goes for school construction.”
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