Colorado State Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver (Daniel Petty, Denver Post file)

Colo. budget planners want a built-in delay on pot tax spending

Citing volatility in the pot marketplace, the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee is seeking to craft a bill that would require the state to spend marijuana revenues in the year after it’s collected.

The idea was raised in the committee’s meeting Tuesday, a day after the state’s Office of Planning and Budgeting scaled back its proposal for allocation of revenues for the next fiscal year by more than $20 million.

“This bill would allow us to look at spending in a more prudent manner,” said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver.

According to the JBC staff, at the end of the current fiscal year, there would be about $20 million available at the start of the 2014-15 fiscal year. Budgeting spending in the future would be based on the actual amount of revenue taken in.

On Monday, budget planners reduced their spending proposal from about $74.7 million to $54.3 million, based on revenue forecasts done in February and late last week. Two months ago, total tax revenue was projected at $3.7 million; the actual amount taken in was $3.2 million. The total projected revenue by the budget planning office was $4.1 million — the actual amount was $4 million.

The biggest drop between projections and reality was the 15 percent retail excise tax; that was projected at $739,330 but took in just $339,615, a 54 percent difference.

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Meanwhile, the medical marijuana business exceeded expectations. Revenue from the 2.9 percent sales tax was $1,022,176, up 29 percent from a projected $791,551. Also, medical marijuana fees totalled $754,165, following a projection of $323,180, a difference of more than 133 percent.

“We don’t want to spend money that we don’t actually have,” said chairwoman Crisanta Duran, D-Denver.

That $20 million available at the start of next year could potentially be earmarked for 19 areas, like school-based prevention and intervention services, pilot projects on marijuana use during pregnancy and public-awareness and marijuana DUI campaigns.

The members of the committee hope to reach an agreement on which programs would receive the money; if consensus wasn’t reached, the committee would likely have to open it up for discussion in the House and Senate — a situation JBC members say that wouldn’t be an ideal scenario.

“We’re talking about $20 million but doing that would lead to a feeding frenzy,” said Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen. “At that point, there would probably be much broader views on how the money could be used — it would become a circus.”

Anthony Cotton: 303-954-1292, or

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