DENVER (KDVR) — Monday marks the first day that county clerks can start sending ballots out to Colorado voters. This year’s statewide ballot will have two questions, including Proposition II, which involves nicotine and preschool. 

If you have lived in Colorado for a while, you may remember Proposition EE.

Three years ago, Colorado voters approved a tax on nicotine items. The tax money went toward funding the state’s universal preschool program.

“Turns out, a couple of years in, the state found out that the tax was collecting more than anticipated,” said Jake Williams, CEO of Healthier Colorado, which is in favor of the ballot question passing. “And as per our state constitution, we need to go back to voters to ask permission to hang on to that money and keep investing it into kids via access to preschool, or should we give that money back to tobacco companies?”

The extra dollars the state brought in were significant. More than $23.6 million in excess revenue was collected from the nicotine tax. 

While there are no official registered opponents to Prop II, every single Republican at the Colorado Capitol voted against placing the measure on the ballot during this year’s legislative session.

Prop II: Preschool vs. nicotine taxes in Colorado

This year’s ballot initiative is not a new tax or a proposed increase. The question asks voters if Colorado can keep those dollars to expand the universal preschool program or give tobacco wholesalers and distributors a tax reduction of more than 11.5%.

“Before universal pre-K was implemented, we had about 23,000 kids in preschool. Now we have more than 40,000,” Williams said. “It’s amazing the expansion that has taken place. That’s 60% of 4-year-olds in Colorado who now have access to preschool, many of whom did not before. And naturally, with such a huge change, there are going to be bumps in the road, but surely the answer isn’t to take money away from preschool and give it to tobacco companies but rather keep that money there and keep serving kids.”

With bumps in the program’s rollout — like families and districts raising concerns and even lawsuits over only receiving a half day or pre-K rather than a full day — supporters like Williams say the money will help alleviate those issues for some families.

“The extra money that would be able to be kept with Proposition II will go towards more hours for kids to access preschool,” Williams said. “The choice is: Invest in kids for preschool or give money back to tobacco companies. I feel confident that voters will see the wisdom in investing in kids.”