By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – A special session of state lawmakers will likely wrap up Tuesday with no resolution to a multi-million dollar problem.
Gov. John Hickenlooper called lawmakers back to work on Monday to fix a mistake in the wording of a new law that’s keeping special districts, including R-T-D and Science and Cultural Facilities, from collecting their share of marijuana sales tax revenues.
Democrats introduced two bills. One of them died in a Republican-controlled Senate committee. The other is all but certain to meet the same fate.
Republicans say the bills would cause a change in tax policy that requires voter approval.
“We still have some deep seated constitutional concerns about this so-called fix,” says Senate President Kevin Grantham.
But, Democratic House Majority Leader KC Becker of Boulder says there’s court precedent, “The judicial branch tells us what the law is and they’ve been very clear in this instance.”
What’s less clear is how urgent the matter is. RTD is losing more than $500,000 a month, but CEO Dave Genova says cuts aren’t imminent.
“Right now, we’re able to absorb and make some arrangements but over time, as this compounds, this six million dollars a year over a number of years is, when you start looking at that and looking at your mid to long term financial plan, it is a significant impact,” says Genova.
On top of the dispute over how to rectify the mistake, there is also disagreement over whether the special districts agreed to pay for the special session, which costs about $25,000 a day.
Hickenlooper said on Friday that they did. But, Deborah Jordy, the executive director of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District testified at the senate hearing that they didn’t.
She says the governor’s office did approach them about it, “It was a suggestion and the first time we heard about the deal was in the press.”
The governor says it was a misunderstanding.
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“I’m not trying to point fingers, but to say this is in any way pay-to-play, no, this is an administrative cost that the state, within its right, is allowed to charge for a special session,” said Hickenlooper.
If lawmakers can’t agree on a legislative fix, special districts may end up having to pay for an election – at an estimated cost of $1 million to collect taxes voters already approved.