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KSJD Newscast - September 17th, 2015

  • Cannabis customers and growers enjoy tax holiday.
  • Public forums planned to discuss proposed sales tax for an expansion of Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez.
  • Colorado legislators support “Good Samaritan” legislation to encourage mine clean-up.

For cannabis customers and growers alike, Christmas came early this year. More specifically, it came on Wednesday. For that day only, the state of Colorado waived the 10 percent retail tax charged to recreational pot buyers and the 15 percent excise fee levied when the substance is moved from cultivation centers to retail outlets. The holiday was courtesy of the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, a constitutional amendment that mandates that when total tax collections in any year exceed projections, new taxes must be set to zero. In this case, legislators chose to set marijuana taxes to zero for a day and then reinstate them. The financial break led to long lines at retail pot shops in some Front Range areas, but Cortez sellers said they did not see much of a surge. Buyers still had to pay the regular state sales tax of 2.9 percent as well as local taxes. It is estimated the holiday could cost the state $3 million to $4 million in revenue.

In other tax news, supporters of a proposed sales tax for an expansion of Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez are planning four public forums to discuss the proposal, which will be on the November ballot. If approved, the tax would amount to four cents on every $10 transaction. It would fund a $14.2 million expansion of inpatient, outpatient, and emergency services on the hospital’s Mildred Road campus. Forums have been set for:

• Tuesday, September 22: Elks Lodge in Cortez, 6-8pm
• Tuesday, September 29th: Mancos Public Library, 6-8pm
• Tuesday, October 6th: Dolores Community Room, 6-8pm
• Tuesday, October 13th: Elks Lodge in Cortez, 6-8pm

In other news, congressional leaders from Colorado called for “Good Samaritan” legislation at a joint House and Senate committee hearing Wednesday into the August 5th Gold King Mine disaster on the Animas River. Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, Republican Senator Cory Gardner, and Third District Representative Scott Tipton, a Republican, all said they support such legislation, which makes it easier for outside groups to clean up polluted mines by freeing them from liability for their actions. Supporters say it would encourage reclamation of the hundreds of toxic sites remaining from historic mining across the West. Critics, however, worry that loosening the rules could lead to unintended consequences such as other accidents like the one that sent 3 million gallons of orange wastes pouring down Cement Creek into the Animas. Congressman Tipton seized the opportunity at Wednesday’s hearing to lambaste the Environmental Protection Agency, which accidentally caused the spill, for what he terms an “infuriating” level of hypocrisy related to the incident.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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