DENVER – A bill currently making its way through the Colorado legislature would allocate more marijuana tax revenues for school construction projects.
When voters legalized retail marijuana sales in Colorado, one of the key selling points of legalization was that certain tax revenues related to legalized marijuana would go toward schools statewide. Specifically, a portion of excise tax revenues — taxes paid by wholesalers purchasing from growers — would go toward funding capital construction projects at some of the most in-need schools, especially in rural areas. Under the current law, whichever amount is greater — $40 million or 90 percent of total excise tax revenues — goes toward the public school capital construction assistance fund.
“What my bill will do is make sure than 100 percent of the state’s marijuana excise tax revenue will be credited to this account and made available for public school capital construction,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Shannon Bird (D-Westminster).
The bill summary is shown below:
Current law requires the greater of the first $40 million of state retail marijuana excise tax revenue or 90% of the revenue to be credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund (assistance fund) and limits the maximum total amount of annual lease payments payable by the state under the terms of all outstanding lease-purchase agreements entered into as authorized by the “Building Excellent Schools Today Act” (BEST) to $100 million. Beginning July 1, 2019, the bill:
- Requires all state retail marijuana excise tax revenue to be credited to the assistance fund;
- Increases the maximum total amount of BEST annual lease payments to $105 million for state fiscal year 2019-20 and to $110 million for state fiscal year 2020-21 and each state fiscal year thereafter;
- Changes the percentage of the state retail marijuana excise tax revenue credited to the assistance fund that is further credited to the charter school facilities assistance account of the assistance fund for distribution to charter schools from 12.5% to a percentage equal to the percentage of students included in the statewide funded pupil count who were enrolled in charter schools for the prior school year; and
- Changes the total amount of money annually appropriated from the state education fund for charter school capital construction from a flat amount of $20 million per year to $20 million per year annually adjusted for changes in the percentage of students included in the statewide funded pupil count who are enrolled in charter schools.
“We are looking to do all that we can to make sure that the way voters intended these dollars to be spent are indeed allocated to our public schools,” Bird said.
The bill passed out of the House Education Committee with bipartisan support, breezing through in a 12-1 vote. It now moves to the House Finance Committee for a hearing on March 4.