This op-ed was updated July 27th to clarify item 7.
It’s that time again-petition signature gathering for initiatives to be placed on the November 2021 ballot. That is why you very likely will be approached in front of your grocery or local hardware store to sign a petition to “just get it on the ballot.” I highly recommend that you totally understand what you are signing. If you do not, do not sign.
Colorado is somewhat unique. State ballot questions can be placed on the ballot in two different ways. The first is a referred measure from the state legislature. The second is citizen initiatives which require a threshold of valid signatures from the citizenry. It is quite expensive to go through the initiative process so seldom do we really see citizen initiatives. Typically, these ballot initiatives are written and supported by politicians, bureaucrats, and interested parties (PBIs) who are either pushing an ideological agenda and/or creating a new government bureaucracy that benefits PBIs. Political consultants like the initiative process too because they also make a lot of money supporting or opposing the campaigns.
If approached, decline to sign Colorado Initiative 25: Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress (LEAP) Program. Proponents of LEAP opine that it is raising marijuana taxes “for the children.” We’ve heard this narrative before. Some LEAP dollars may help some children, but when you read the text, it looks like politicians, bureaucrats and interested parties (PBIs) will make a lot of money by once again stepping up to another bureaucratic trough.
Here are my ten top reasons that we are opposed to this initiative:
- LEAP increases the current 15% state marijuana retail tax an additional 3% for 2022, 4% for year 2023 and 5% for 2024. After that, LEAP taxes could add another 10% tax for a total of 15% LEAP taxes on retail marijuana. This adds up to a possible 30% state sales tax on retail marijuana and does not include any local sales taxes on marijuana. This raises marijuana taxes so high, that it makes the black market more attractive, thereby inviting even more criminal activity into Colorado and making our communities less safe. The Marijuana Retail Report notes that the City of Berkeley, California recognizes this and is working to make the legal market more competitive by cutting taxes. A 2019 Politico article How Legal Marijuana is Helping the Black Market, quotes John Hudak, a cannabis expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., “Cannabis consumers are rational economic actors. They’re probably going to pick the cheaper option. In a lot of states, that would mean black market cannabis.”
- LEAP creates an unelected “independent” board that is not accountable to the voters, the Colorado legislature or the Department of Education.
- LEAP says that this will create out-of-school learning opportunities that are critical for “all” Colorado children on the first page but then notes that it is only available to “eligible” Colorado children throughout the remainder of the initiative. Note: selection will be based on income. Middle class families need not apply. Government is once again picking winners and losers and once again squeezing the middle class.
- LEAP says it will allow for tutoring for subject areas including reading, mathematics, science and writing. Our kids are falling behind because we are using valuable hours in the school day to teach the divisive Critical Race Theory, or iterations thereof, and sexualizing our kids with the LGTBQ curriculum. If we focus teachers’ time, school resources and school hours in the day on the critical subjects necessary to help our children have the tools for success, we do not need the LEAP program.
- LEAP does not open the possibility of school choice or vouchers. The money never touches the parents and parents can only “choose” from a pre-selected “menu” of pre-selected tutors. The question is who chooses? The answer? The Authority.
- LEAP notes that LEAP dollars cannot be used for school tuition. No school choice here.
- LEAP notes that “immediate family members are not eligible to be qualified providers in the provision of services to their children or youth.” Clarification from my initial Op-Ed. Home school kids could participate in the after-school LEAP program if they are deemed “eligible.” Home school parents cannot be providers of LEAP’s after-school programs. There is concern by parents regarding the data collection component of the LEAP Initiative.
- LEAP says that no more than ten percent of money may be used for administrative expenses. If LEAP revenue is $138,000,000 that works out to $13,800,00 for LEAP’s administrative expenses. From what I can tell, the providers are not limited to the amount they can allocate to administrative expenses. This provides yet another cash cow for politicians, bureaucrats and interested parties. Most small businesses have about a 7% profit margin. No small business could survive with 20% plus administrative costs.
- The LEAP board chooses their replacements,
- And on the last page (14), last two paragraphs, LEAP de-TABORs (Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment to the Colorado Constitution) future revenue, spending, and appropriations.
We all agree that our children are falling behind in their education. The solution is not LEAP which increases marijuana taxes to create a huge new unelected, unaccountable government bureaucracy. The solution is to focus valuable classroom time on reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history, and critical thinking to empower each and every child to pursue their hopes and dreams.