A bi-partisan pair of former Colorado governors have endorsed a proposed initiative to raise cannabis taxes to pay for extra tutoring and services to help students make up for academic losses suffered during the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reports. The campaign behind the proposal, Learning Opportunities for Colorado’s Kids, announced the endorsements from former governors Bill Ritter (D) and Bill Owens (R) on Wednesday.
The campaign—I-25—needs 250,000 signatures by Aug. 2 to be put to voters. The proposal would supplement a plan proposed by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis which would serve the state’s low-income students and those who are falling behind by creating the Colorado Learning Authority. The new office in the Department of Education would be tasked with helping kids ages 5 to 17 with English language learning, out-of-school tutoring, special needs instruction, mental health services, and career training.
In order to pay for the program, the initiative would raise the state’s cannabis excise tax from 15% to 20% by 2024. It is expected to raise over $137 million. Under the initiative, other funds may be raised from leases and rents on state land and possibly outside sources. Currently, in addition to the 15% excise tax, adult-use cannabis in Colorado carries a 2.9% state sales tax, but the funds can only be used for school construction and maintenance, the report says.
In addition to the endorsement from the former governors, the initiative is supported by Democratic and Republican lawmakers and a host of service and education organizations serving Black and Latino kids.
Papa Dia, executive director of the Aurora-based African Leadership Group, said that the “initiative helps level the playing field and lift up those for whom there are too few opportunities.”
“With LEAP, we can narrow the opportunity gaps between the rich and poor, between students from homes where English is not the first or primary language spoken, and between those attending high-performing schools and those who do not.”—Papa Dia in a statement
Notably, the AP points out the Colorado cannabis industry is “wary” of the tax increase and has raised concerns about the increase encouraging the state’s unregulated cannabis market. In April, Colorado collected over $25 million in excise tax revenues from over $166 million in adult-use cannabis sales, according to the AP.
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