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Greeley Council Rejects Cigarette Tax Idea

Greeley smokers can breathe a little easier.

Taxes on their cigarettes, at least at the local level, won’t be going up anytime soon.

The Greeley City Council in a work session Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a plan by the cigarettes Free Coalition of Weld County to ask Greeley voters in November to add a 75-cent-per-pack tax on all discount cigarettes purchased in Greeley.

The coalition had only been studying the idea for the past month, but to get it on the November ballot, the council would have had to certify the ballot question by mid-August.

“The timing really bothers me,” Mayor Tom Norton said. “That’s a real bother to me, even that and not being able to research enough what effect it would have on state and other communities, and why we would do something different than other cities in the state.”

If Greeley started a local cheap cigarette online tax, at least from preliminary looks, it would be the only city in the state to do so.

The state now collects 84 cents per pack of cigarettes, and it shares back 27 percent of that with local governments. Last year, that was $200,000 to the city of Greeley. If the city added its own tax, it would lose that state share-back.

The coalition, through its own research, felt a 75-cent tax on cheap cigarettes could raise $1.7 million annually, even given considerations such as people buying cigarettes for sale elsewhere to avoid the tax.

“The key point is we haven’t had the chance to evaluate what fiscal impact on the city would be,” City Finance Director Tim Nash said.

But, said coalition president Herb Daggers of Greeley, it was a little rushed to put it on the ballot.

“We are disappointed, but we had no illusions given the time frame,” Daggers said.

He said the coalition has no concerns about waiting a year to get the question on the next general election ballot, time in which the city council could gauge what residents wanted.

Added councilwoman Donna Sapienza: “I haven’t heard anything from constituents that would support putting this measure on the ballot. I have concerns about the timing, and the state share back, and my biggest concern is we’re putting people on ropes to buy cigarettes online in other municipalities. I want people to buy Greeley.”

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