Denver City Council approves 0.25% sales tax increase, sending it to November ballot

Cash from the increase would, if approved by voters, be dedicated to Denver’s renewable energy goals over the coming decades

David Zalubowski, The Associated Press In this Wednesday, March 6, 2019, photograph, the skyline is shrouded as pollution fills the air over Denver.

By CONRAD SWANSON | | The Denver Post August 3, 2020

Denver City Council passed a measure to the November ballot Monday which would increase the city’s sales tax rate by a quarter of a percent to fund renewable energy goals over the coming decades.

If approved by voters, the tax would charge shoppers an extra 2.5 cents on every $10 purchase of goods and services. Food, water, fuel and medical supplies, among other necessities, would be exempt from the tax.

The proposed tax increase comes at the recommendation of the recently formed Denver Climate Action Task Force and would raise an estimated $36 million in its first year, according to the group’s recommendations.

Cash from the increase would have to be spent creating jobs in the areas of renewable and clean energy technology and management of natural resources; on solar power, battery storage and other renewable energy technologies; neighborhood-based environmental and climate justice programs, and other environmentally friendly programs, the bill states.

Not only would the cash be used for green initiatives, but it would also be used to directly benefit communities of color and lower income communities, which are disproportionately hurt by long-standing, environmentally harmful practices in Denver and around the country, said Councilman Jolon Clark. The money could be used to subsidize the installation of solar panels on low-income homes to reduce or eliminate utility bills while also cutting the city’s reliance on fossil fuels, for example, he said.

The move should have been made decades ago, Clark said. And while a proposal to increase taxes during a pandemic might not be popular, the cost of inaction will only increase.

“Every day that we wait the price tag on this goes up higher and higher and the threat to the most vulnerable communities in our city goes up,” Clark said.

The measure will replace a different measure placed on the ballot by Resilient Denver, which would have instead raised cash for environmentally friendly programs by increasing utility bills based on electricity and natural gas usage, Clark said.

If approved, Clark said the tax would not expire after any set amount of time.

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