Colorado Legislature gives final approval to a charitable bingo and raffles amendment and a cigarette tax increase measure

On Monday, the Colorado State Legislature sent two measures to the November 2020 ballot.

One measure would amend the state constitution to require charitable organizations to have existed for three years before obtaining a charitable gaming license instead of the current constitutional requirement of five years. The amendment would allow charitable organizations to hire managers and operators of gaming activities so long as they are not paid more than the minimum wage. Currently, the constitution requires those who operate charitable gaming activities to be a member of the organization working as an unpaid volunteer.

The other measure would increase cigarette taxes and create a new tax on nicotine products such as e-cigarettes. It would dedicate revenues to various health and education programs. The measure requires voter approval under TABOR since it would increase state revenue. The TABOR Amendment requires voter approval for all new taxes, tax rate increases, extensions of expiring taxes, mill levy increases, valuation for property assessment increases, or tax policy changes resulting in increased tax revenue. The Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights was passed in 1992 as Initiative 1 by a vote of 53.68% to 46.32%. The measure was spearheaded by Colorado activist Douglas Bruce (R). TABOR limits the amount of money the state of Colorado can take in and spend. It limits the annual increase for some state revenue to inflation plus the percentage change in state population. Any money collected above this limit is refunded to taxpayers unless the voters allow the state to spend it.

Currently, in Colorado, cigarettes are taxed at a base rate of one cent per cigarette. The measure would incrementally increase the per-cigarette base tax rate as follows:
  1. 6.5 cents per cigarette from January 1, 2021, to July 1, 2024;
  2. 8 cents per cigarette from July 1, 2024, to July 1, 2027; and
  3. 10 cents per cigarette after July 1, 2027.

Additionally, Amendment 35 of 2004 authorized an additional tax of 3.2 cents per cigarette. Revenues from this additional voter-approved tax are exempt from the TABOR limit.

With the addition of these two measures, Coloradans are set to vote on a total of eight ballot measures in November. However, the state legislature passed a bill that would delay one of the measures, a transportation bond issue, to the 2021 ballot if signed by Governor Jared Polis (D).

A measure to repeal the Gallagher Amendment of 1982 was also referred to the 2020 ballot by the legislature. The Gallagher Amendment limits the residential and non-residential property tax assessment rates so that residential property taxes equal 45% of the total share of state property taxes and non-residential property taxes equal 55% of the total share of state property taxes. The measure was passed by the Senate on June 9 in a vote of 27-7 and was passed by the House in a vote of 51-14 on June 12, 2020.

Fourteen citizen initiatives have been cleared for signature gathering in Colorado with signatures due by August 3 to qualify for the 2020 ballot.

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About the author

Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a state ballot measures staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

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