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Colorado county's pot tax to pay for higher education

One Colorado county is looking to change the traditional linkage of college kids and pot.

Smoking in the driveway_Avalanche-Journal story coverageAt a story/suspected crime scene in my first post-college reporter job, smoking Marlboro Lights, not marijuana!

Starting in 2017, Pueblo County high school graduates will be eligible for college scholarships funded by money from the local marijuana tax.

Wisdom thanks to weed taxes: On Nov. 3, around 60 percent of voters in this county south of Colorado Springs approved a ballot measure that will gradually increase taxes on marijuana growers. The county pot tax rate will top out at 5 percent by 2020.

Pueblo County is expected to raise $3.5 million from the higher tax rates. At least half the marijuana tax money will go toward scholarships for high school graduates to attend public colleges or universities. Depending on revenue, the program might be expanded in future years.

"The excise tax would be levied when marijuana is transferred from cultivation to a store," Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace said before the vote. "Pueblo County's perfect economic and weather conditions have created a boom of recreational cultivations without yet generating a tax on these grows."

Following the election, Pueblo County spokesperson Paris Carmichael said the weed-funded scholarship program will help make higher education a reality for families who can't afford to send their kids to school.

My, my, my. How high times have changed since I was in college.

More marijuana tax votes: Statewide, Colorado voters said "yes" to letting the state keep $66 million it had collected in connection with recreational marijuana sales.

If the measure, which passed by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin, had failed, the average Colorado taxpayer would have received a refund of about $8. Now, however, the millions will go toward school construction and state programs.

And in the state capital, Denver voters agreed to a similar keep-or-refund local ballot measure. Voters there, 81 percent to 19 percent, said the Mile High City can keep its pot taxes rather than refund them.

Ohio voters, however, said "no" to the legal sale (and taxation) of recreational marijuana of weed. That 64 percent against vote, however, was seen more as a rejection of the structure of the proposed pot sales system than of the idea of some legal marijuana in the Buckeye State.

Elsewhere in tax votes on Nov. 3:

  • Maine's "Clean Elections" Initiative (Question 1) was approved by 55 percent of the state's voters. The passage of this ballot initiative increased funding for the Maine Clean Elections Fund from $2 million to $3 million. The additional funding will come from eliminating $6 million in what are described as low-performing, unaccountable corporate tax exemptions, including deductions or credits "with little or no demonstrated economic development effect."
  • Almost 53 percent of Washington State voters signed off on the Sales Tax Decrease or Two-Thirds Vote for Tax Increase ballot measure. The approval means that Washington's state sales tax rate will drop from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent if the legislature doesn't change how it deals with tax increases. Specifically, Evergreen State lawmakers now much agree to move from a simple majority requirement for tax law changes to the requirement of a two-thirds vote in the legislature. If the tax rate cut does take effect, it's estimated that Washington will lose around $1 billion in tax revenue.
  • Texas voters approved three tax-related ballot initiatives. Proposition 1 bumps up the Lone Star State's residential homestead property tax exemption from $15,000 to $25,000. Proposition 2 provides a residential property tax exemption for surviving spouses of disabled veterans. And Proposition 7 dedicates certain sales tax dollars to road construction and payment of existing transportation-related debt.

Did your state or local government have a tax question on the last election's ballot? If so, let us know in the comments what it was and how it fared.

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