Cuts to RTD, Denver Zoo possible if lawmakers don’t act during special session

DENVER -- Governor John Hickenlooper describes it as an "honest mistake."

Earlier this year, when lawmakers passed a sweeping new spending package, a new 15% sales tax on recreational marijuana was created. The Governor says they never intended to get rid of special district taxes -- but they did.

As a result, the RTD and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (which helps facilities like the Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature and Science) have not been able to collect marijuana taxes since July 1.

There are also a handful of other small taxing districts impacted throughout the state.

"Anytime you take a portion of funding from agencies that are already strapped and have more demands than they can fulfill--that becomes a real issue," Scott Reed with RTD said.

Reed said RTD so far has been able to absorb the lost revenue. But emphasized that won't be the case forever.

"Eventually we will be having to cut service," Reed said.

When Hickenlooper called the special session he had hoped the fix could be done easily.

That is now certainly not the case.

In fact Republicans have indicated they will not support the "fix."

"I don't see a path forward for a special session and quite frankly it's a waste of time and money," State Rep. Patrick Neville, leader of Republicans in the House, said.

One concern Republicans have is the Governor's ask may violate the constitution. Neville believes TABOR laws require any new tax to be presented to voters.

"This is turning into a political circus which defies logic," Hickenlooper said Friday.

Hickenlooper pleaded with Republicans to reconsider -- arguing not acting cuts programs to kids at places like the zoo.

"Why are we giving a tax holiday to those who smoke marijuana at the cost of those folks who are trying to take care of our kids?" Hickenlooper asked.

Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham issued the following statement:

"Having interested parties pay the cost of a special session has to be one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard from this Governor, coming in close second to his baffling and botched decision to hold an unnecessary special session without doing the pre-planning and consultations required to improve our chance of success. This idea would set a terrible precedent and has potential to create huge public misperceptions about the fairness and integrity of the process. We sometimes hear the criticism that politicians are 'bought and paid for,' but what the Governor [is] proposing here would make that literally true. What's next? Will he try lining-up sponsorships for the regular session as well? His complete mishandling of this situation, from beginning to end, doesn’t bode well for next week."