Learning From Our Mistakes

 Uncategorized
Sep 262004
 
Authors: Ben Bleckley

Smoking, of course, is widely known now as one of the greatest

health risks United States citizens face. Besides the risks of

lung, throat and mouth cancer, smokers are plagued with bad breath

and brown teeth. Fort Collins and other Colorado cities have

outlawed smoking indoors to protect nonsmokers from secondhand

smoke. All of this is common knowledge.

One would think, then, that Colorado voters should throw their

full support behind Amendment 35 this November. The ballot issue

would add a 64-cent tax on cigarettes and a 20 percent tax on all

tobacco products.

Relatively speaking, the 64-cent increase is not that much.

Colorado has the lowest tax on cigarettes in the country. Amendment

35 would only bring the state up to date with the rest of the

nation.

The revenues from the tax would fund health-related costs.

Forty-six percent would be spent to increase enrollment of children

and pregnant women in the state’s “Children’s Basic Health Plan.”

Another 19 percent will fund primary care, 16 percent for tobacco

prevention, 16 percent for detection and treatment of cancer,

cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and 3 percent will be placed

in the government’s general health fund. It is estimated that the

new tax could raise as much as $175 million each year.

This sounds pretty good (at least, for those of us who don’t

have an ethical problem with charging addicted individuals for our

health costs.) The higher tax could potentially deter smokers from

buying as many cigarettes, while the revenue produced will fund

health and preventative programs.

But for voters who were in Colorado for the 2000 election, this

amendment has a staunch odor. At first, it’s hard to place, like

searching the refrigerator for that leftover entr�e you

brought home last month but never ate because it had a weird

aftertaste.

It reeks of Amendment 23, the initiative that, combined with the

Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, has utterly ruined and devastated higher

education.

Amendment 23, which was passed in the 2000 election, requires a

minimum increase of 1 percent plus inflation for K-12 public school

funding – each year. Since TABOR doesn’t allow for an increase in

the state tax, and only a certain percentage of state revenue can

be spent on education, each year the amount of money going to

higher education has decreased more and more.

And the reason the Colorado General Assembly can’t fix this very

large conundrum is that Amendment 23 was passed by voters in an

election. Only voters can repeal it.

If Amendment 35 is passed, the legislature will have no power to

adjust how the money from the taxes is spent or even repeal the

tax. Problems with the state’s future budget now unforeseeable

could be disastrous if Amendment 35 passes.

Ben Bleckley is a junior English major. His column runs on

Mondays.

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