The Independence Institute’s Linda Gorman is out with a stinging analysis
of what’s really going on behind the scenes with Amendment 72, a $315 million tax increase that will lock a slush fund for state health bureaucrats in the state constitution, and outside of legislative oversight.
The money raised through a tobacco tax will be TABOR-exempt, and funneled to a pair of state bureaucracies that tell us they will dish it out in grants and programs. Just trust us they say…it’s going to reduce smoking.
Well we already have massive amounts of money coming into the state from the Tobacco Master Settlement Program and Amendment 35, which raised tobacco taxes in 2005. Just how does that money go to smoking cessation and prevention? The truth is, it doesn’t. Most of the Amendment 35 money goes to Medicaid programs, and the Tobacco Master Settlement money goes to things like the visiting nurse program, childhood literacy, and the Tony Grampsas Youth grants.
Gorman reported that the money from the existing tobacco tax that was actually spent on smoking cessation programs includes $5 million for the Colorado Quitline, $4.5 million in anti-smoking advertising, among other things. That’s less than 10% of the tobacco tax went to help people stop smoking.
And where does all of this end? Gorman brings up the valid point that if Amendment 72 passes, to be on the lookout for more state agencies to seek funding outside of TABOR and the legislative process by creating constitutional mandates for increased taxes and directing those dollars straight into their administrative budgets with no accountability or no oversight.
State bureaucrats already have more than $100 million in tobacco-related revenue at their disposal every year, and they do not use it effectively to fight smoking. Now, they want more to do what they already should be doing?
Coloradans do not need another tax increase. They need public officials who don’t squander their tax dollars. Amendment 72 is a bad deal for Colorado and it doesn’t belong in the constitution.