Marijuana tax, Denver-area school board recall effort headline Colorado's off-year elections

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DENVER — Colorado is voting Tuesday on state marijuana taxes and local issues that include a hotly contested school board recall in suburban Denver.

The only statewide ballot measure seeks to correct an accounting error in marijuana taxes approved by voters two years ago. The 10 percent sales tax and 15 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana raised some $66 million last year.

Because overall state tax revenue was higher than expected during that 2013 vote, the pot taxes must be refunded unless voters give the state permission to keep them. The ballot measure has encountered no organized opposition and is expected to pass.

"I'm confident voters will say they meant it when they said they wanted marijuana to be regulated and taxed and how they wanted it spent," said Sen. Pat Steadman, a Denver Democrat and one of the Legislature's main budget writers.

As is typical of off-year elections, local questions dominate ballots. The most watched is in Jefferson County, outside Denver.

There, angry parents and educators are trying to recall three conservative school board members. Recall backers cite several complaints, including changes in teacher pay and talk of reviewing the Advanced Placement U.S. history curriculum to promote patriotism. The curriculum idea prompted students to walk out of class and protest in the streets last year.

The three board members say they're being targeted for tying teacher pay to performance instead of seniority, among other issues.

The recall campaign attracted nearly $1 million in direct and outside political spending — all for board seats that are unpaid — in what's become a battle over what education reform should look like.

As of Tuesday morning, 26.1 percent of voters had turned in their ballots statewide. Turnout was just slightly higher in Jefferson County, at 26.7 percent, but that figure was expected to rise throughout the day, said Lynn Bartels, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Other local issues decided Tuesday:


Breckenridge voters decide what may be Colorado's first local tax on ski lift tickets. The city wants voters to approve a 4.5 percent sales tax on single-day and multiday Breckenridge Ski Resort tickets.

The tax would be collected by Vail Resorts, which operates the Breckenridge resort. Vail Resorts originally opposed the tax but relented when season passes, multi-resort lift-tickets and summer activities were excluded.

The money would go to transit and parking improvements in the resort town.


Denver is asking voters to allow the city to borrow $476 million to help pay for a major renovation to the National Western Center, which hosts the state's biggest stock show each January.

Voters also are being asked to borrow $105 million to expand and upgrade the Colorado Convention Center. The money would come from extending the city's lodging and car rental taxes, which otherwise expire in 2023.


Aurora is asking voters to repeal an ordinance that prevents the state's third-largest city from giving economic incentives to motor sports facilities, such as a NASCAR-style speedway. City officials insist there are no plans to develop a motorsports facility but say the ban should be repealed in case such an opportunity arises.

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