The bill refers a ballot issue to the voters at the November 2019 statewide election for the following tax increases:
- To increase the cigarette tax by 8.75 cents per cigarette;
- To increase the tobacco products tax by 22% of the manufacturer's list price; and
- To create a tax on nicotine products that is equal to 62% of the manufacturer's list price, which is the same total tax as the tax levied on tobacco products with the increase.
If voters approve the tax, then the state will have the authority to impose these taxes and retain and spend the revenue as a voter-approved revenue change, and the remainder of the bill takes effect upon approval.
The new nicotine products tax is modeled after the tobacco products tax. Nicotine products are products that contain nicotine and that are ingested into the body, which at this time is typically through vaping with an electronic cigarette. The excise tax is levied on the sale, use, consumption, handling, or distribution of all nicotine products in the state, and it is imposed on a distributor at the time the product is brought into the state, made here, or shipped or transported to retailers in the state. If a distributor fails to pay the tax, then any person or entity in possession of the nicotine products is liable for the tax.
To be a distributor of nicotine products, a person must have a license. The license costs $10 per year and requires that the distributor must have a tax license and comply with all of the laws relating to the collection of the tax. Distributors are required to file quarterly returns, and the department of revenue (department) may require electronic fund transfers of the taxes paid. Licensees are required to maintain certain records, and retailers are likewise required to maintain records about nicotine products it purchases from a licensed distributor. The department may share the names and addresses of persons who purchased nicotine products for resale with the department of public health and environment and county and district public health agencies.
To account for the increased taxes per cigarette, the discount percentage on cigarette stamps that a cigarette wholesaler may retain for its collection costs is reduced from 4% to .4% and the similar discount for a tobacco products distributor is reduced from 3.33% to 1.6%. A nicotine products distributor will be permitted to retain 1.1% of the taxes collected.
In general, 50% of the revenue from the new nicotine products tax and the additional cigarette and tobacco products taxes (new tax revenue) is allocated for purposes related to health care, and 50% is allocated for preschool programs and expanded learning opportunities. Specifically, the new tax revenue is deposited in the old age pension fund and then credited to the general fund in accordance with the state constitution. The state treasurer is then required to transfer 50% of the new tax revenue from the general fund to the behavioral health and health care affordability and accessibility cash fund (behavioral health fund).
The state treasurer is further required to transfer money in the behavioral health fund as follows:
- 19%, up to $30 million, to the tobacco education programs fund, which is primarily used for tobacco education, prevention, and cessation programs, which are expanded to include nicotine products; and
- 9.5%, up to $15 million, to offset the decreased revenue from the existing taxes that may result from the voter-approved rate increases, and of this amount, 73% is further allocated to the tobacco tax cash fund and 27% to the general fund.
For fiscal years that begin prior to July 1, 2023, the general assembly is required to appropriate the remainder of the money in the behavioral health fund as follows:
- 66% to make health care more affordable and accessible; and
- 34% to improve the provision of behavioral health services for children and youth.
Thereafter, the specific allocation no longer applies and the only limitation on appropriating for these 2 purposes is that each purpose must receive at least 20% of the fund remainder.
The state treasurer is required to transfer the other 50% of the new tax revenue to the newly created preschool programs cash fund, from which money is appropriated to the department of education to improve the availability, affordability, and quality of voluntary early childhood education, and to the Colorado expanded learning opportunities cash fund, from which money is used for the Colorado expanded learning opportunities program. The allocation of the new tax revenue between the 2 funds is as follows:
- For the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years, 35% to the preschool programs cash fund and 15% to the Colorado expanded learning opportunities cash fund;
- For the 2021-22 fiscal year, 30% to the preschool programs cash fund and 20% to the Colorado expanded learning opportunities cash fund; and
- For the 2022-23 fiscal year and each fiscal year thereafter, 27.5% to the preschool programs cash fund and 22.5% to the Colorado expanded learning opportunities cash fund.
The state auditor is required to annually conduct a financial audit of the use of the new tax revenue.
The bill also creates the Colorado expanded learning opportunities program, which is established to allow eligible students to participate in out-of-school learning experiences. The Colorado expanded learning opportunities agency, which is an independent agency in the department of education, through an administering nonprofit, pays providers for eligible students to participate in such experiences.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as introduced.)