Advertisements by Lyng’s group refer to a “backroom deal” among Colorado lawmakers and Altria Group, since the bill lawmakers passed to get Prop EE on the ballot was introduced in just a few days at the end of the legislative session.

That highlights another major difference between the 2016 measure and Prop EE. This year’s measure is a statute that could be changed by the legislature in terms of where the money ultimately goes. 

But proponents of EE are convinced lawmakers will hold true to the promise of preschool for 4-year-olds. 

“This could be a model for the country on how to do universal preschool,” said Mike Johnston, a former state senator who now leads Gary Community Investments, the top financial supporter of Prop EE.

The pro-EE campaign, called Brighter Healthier Future for Colorado Kids, raised $3.6 million through the end of September, while No on Prop EE has raised $3.4 million. Both are spending heavily on advertising.

Prop EE would increase taxes on cigarettes, tobacco and nicotine products starting in January 2021 with gradual increases until 2027. 

Ultimately tobacco and vaping products would be taxed at 62 percent, while cigarettes would be taxed at $2.64 a pack, up from 84 cents a pack now.

A pack of cigarettes would cost $7 at a minimum, which includes all state taxes, starting in January 2021, going up to $7.50 in July 2024.

The new taxes are projected to raise $177 million in the first full year and up to $276 million in fiscal year 2027.

Lyng said low- and middle-income Coloradans would bear the brunt of the taxes and the higher prices on cigarettes.

“The fact of the matter is that 14 percent of Coloradans use these products,” she said. “Of that 14 percent, 80 percent, approximately, make under $40,000 a year. This is an incredibly regressive tax.”

But Johnston said he hopes the higher taxes will encourage Coloradans to quit using tobacco and nicotine products.

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