A bill that would have asked voters to approve a tax hike on tobacco and nicotine products is dead.
The bill would have created a new 62 percent tax on nicotine products, such as vape pens and e-cigarettes, and increased the tax on tobacco by 22 percent of the wholesale price. The hikes would have meant taxes on a pack of cigarettes would go from $0.84 per pack to $2.59 per pack.
A fiscal note for the bill estimated the measure would raise over $320 million in revenue in Fiscal Year 2020-21, which would have went toward funding education and health care.
The measure was voted down late Thursday night in the Colorado Senate.
If the bill had passed and been signed into law by Polis, the issue then would have gone to the ballot in November for voters to decide on the tax increases, as required by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
“We have fallen behind when it comes to nicotine addiction, especially for our kids,” Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, the bill’s co-sponsor, said before the vote. “Tobacco is still the number one cause of a preventable death in Colorado and nationwide. Our youth in Colorado has the highest national average for vaping.”
But only nine senators – all Democrats – out of the 35 members in the upper chamber voted for the bill.
The tally was taken in an unrecorded division vote, where members must stand to have their votes counted.
Critics said the tax was regressive and would hurt the poor the most. Others, such as prominent Democratic lobbyist Ted Trimpa, said the taxes would hurt small businesses, such as vape shops.
“The Governor’s eleventh hour tobacco and vaping tax proposal met the fate it deserved today, and we thank the Senate Democrats – and the seven House Democrats – who agreed with that,” Senate GOP spokesman Sage Naumann said in a statement. “If we are to effectively combat teen nicotine use, we must do so without attacking adults who are utilizing e-cigarettes to add years back to their lives and without ignoring the majority of Colorado voters who said no to a regressive tobacco tax increase just a few years ago.”