Superfunding Humanity

By Diana Kurniawan

Last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock announced the recipients of nearly $30 million in Great Outdoors Colorado/Lottery Grants for open space, outdoor recreation and trail projects near river corridors.

$30 million. Imagine how many people we could help.

I'm not putting down outdoor improvement, but it is an interesting idea. Taxes are taken for the sale and distribution of alcohol, gambling, adult entertainment and lottery monies. What if these so-called “sin taxes” were apportioned to help those who are less fortunate?

As increases in these “sin taxes” are introduced, maybe a new category can be helped -- the homeless.

A piece in Forbes Magazine in June reported, “sin taxes are all the rage these days—with votes pending to tax cigarettes an extra dollar per pack in the state of California to a proposed license fee in Richmond, California, on businesses selling sweetened drinks.”

And in Denver, we have the perfect “borderline” sin—medical marijuana. In 2011, the sales tax on medical marijuana increased Colorado revenue by $5 million.

Could medical marijuana tax be part of the education, healthcare and homeless care for the future of Colorado? With the $5 million revenue for the state, some of its distribution should include education, healthcare and homeless care, and marijuana usage is likely to increase in the coming years. Currently, the monies collected from the sales tax are allocated to the state and city treasuries department to be used in accordance to the state’s discretion

Colorado’s medical marijuana tax could be spent like the state’s lottery funds, which is given to the Colorado State Parks and Recreation Department to increase outdoors grants. Through the Colorado Lottery funds and the Conservation Trust Fund, the Barnum Park restroom and the South Platte River (Denver) Legacy were built with Great Outdoors Colorado. Three Western Colorado outdoor fundings going forward are publicized as maintenance, improvements and reconstructions, and there will still be money allocated to Colorado’s Park and Recreation through the existing Colorado lottery funds.

Which brings up the question, could a part of the $30 million have been approved for education, healthcare and homeless care? Is an extra playground worth more to Colorado than a newly constructed independent housing for the matchstick men outside on Colfax Avenue? A lot of people would argue yes, I know.

There are ways of using that excess lotto money, too. Strategies such as lowering the final prize drawing by 20 percent for lotteries and giving that amount to add to the tax proceeds used for homeless care could prove to be advantageous. It might make the winner less happy, but, hey, they are going to spend all at once anyways. A small tax increase is a small sacrifice for those who frequent the marijuana dispensaries or play the lottery, but the taxes apportioned to better the well-being for the impoverished will be a worthy cause to help our youth and increase grants for the healthcare system for the people.

To live in a world without vice and alternative medicine may never exist, but the effort to superfund humanity is an effort that will never be corrupted.