O&A Masthead

Colorado News —
December 2016

Columnist — Joyce Trent

DENVER — Voters beat back a proposal that would have tripled the state's excise tax on cigarettes, a measure that gasoline and other retailers feared would lead to massive loss of business.

But the same voters passed a big increase in the minimum wage that would raise it to $12 an hour in 2020 and some say force decisions on employee levels.

Boulder retailers were also hit with a huge sugar tax.

The tax on cigarettes would have gone from eighty-four cents a pack to $2.59. The Colorado-Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association warned if it passed smuggling and other lawlessness would likely increase.

The association estimated smuggling would increase from 12 to 36 percent, with half of the increase coming from casual smuggling and the remaining half from commercial smuggling. Casual smuggling occurs when a resident goes to another state to purchase his own supply. Commercial smuggling is often supported by organized crime.

Colorado flag

Not only would cigarettes be brought in from nearby states with lower taxes like Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, but also from more distant areas like Missouri, which has a tax of only seventeen cents.

Smoker Friendly International, a Colorado-based chain of gasoline, tobacco and convenience stores operating in many states, told the Boulder Daily Camera that "The last time we weathered a tax increase of this magnitude we had to close 19 percent of our stores and lay off over seventy hard-working employees."

Smoker Friendly Co-owner Mary Szarmach warned, "Tax increases such as these make for a less safe work environment for those who remain. Break-ins and armed robberies have grown between ten and twenty percent in other states where this type of tax increase has taken place."

The proposal was soundly defeated by smokers and non-smokers.

The minimum wage, however, was broadly supported. It called for an increase by increments: $1 in January 2017, raising the wage to $9.30; $10.20 in 2018, $11.10 in 2019, and to $12 in 2020.

A coalition of about four dozen labor unions and liberal and progressive self-named groups supported the measure while 30 business groups opposed it.

Boulder became the second city in the country to pass a tax on distributors of soda and other sugar-laden beverages, although pending results on similar measures on the ballot in other states appeared to be passing.

The passage in Boulder means a two-cent per fluid ounce excise tax on those who distribute beverages with at least five grams of added sugar per twelve ounces.

Alcohol, medical beverages, milk products and drinks which are one hundred percent juice are exempt.

The measure was aimed at cutting children's consumption of sugar with proponents believing the tax would be passed on to consumers by retailers. A group called Healthy Boulder Kids initiated the proposal, which was hotly contested by the beverage industry which spent more than a million dollars to try to defeat it.

The tax is expected to generate $3 million a year which is designated for use in educating children about unhealthy choices and to establish programs involving physical activities.

The Colorado Beverage Association expects the tax to have no meaningful impact on public health, but will hurt small retailers.

PUEBLO — Colorado-based Loaf 'N Jug has launched a two-pronged effort to help veterans and military families.

In October the convenience store chain sponsored a fund-raiser for Home Front Cares with an annual dinner called For the Love of Our Troops. The speaker was Army Major Lisa Jaster, one of the first women to graduate from U.S. Army Ranger school.

Then Loaf 'N Jug initiated a two-month donation campaign in all 98 Colorado stores. Customers were encouraged to purchase donation support cards for a dollar or more and write their names on them. The cards were hung in the stores.

"These donations not only benefit the great services provided by The Home Front Cares, they also let our valued customers show how much they love our troops," said Art Stawski, the chain's president.

Dr. Andy Cain, chairman of the board of The Home Front Cares, lauded the effort, saying, "I have hoped for so long to have a retail partner who could support our clients with a point-of-sale donation. I am so proud it is a Colorado company that has done so."

DENVER — Gleam Car Wash opened recently in the Berkeley neighborhood here.

Rob Madrid, co-owner, promised to "brush off the image of car washes as dirty, smelly places you can't wait to escape."

His wash features a 135-foot tunnel that can wash a car in about three minutes. Madrid expects to clean at least 120,000 cars a year using 85 percent less drinkable water than a do-it-yourself spray or home hose wash, reclaim up to 90 percent of all water used and treat all of that. It also will use up to 100 KW of solar power, offsetting its energy needs by more than 20 percent. A charging station for electric cars being detailed is available.

Madrid also expects to donate a large amount of money to charity. And he promised to employ a diverse section of the population, including the disabled, refugees and others who have trouble getting jobs.

EADS — Love's Travel Stops has opened its eighth location along U.S. 287.

With the opening of this location, professional drivers now have access to eight Love's stops along the six hundred-mile-stretch of the highway, from Eads, Colorado to Rhome, Texas.

Greg Love, co-CEO, said the company is looking for more locations in Colorado.

The stores offer gourmet coffee, fresh fruit, gifts and feature a Subway, 50 truck parking spots and two showers.

Other locations along the highway are in Lamar, CO., Boise City, OK., and Dumas, Memphis, Quanah, Wichita Falls and Rhome, all in Texas.

DENVER — A gang member involved in a shoot-out at a car wash that left two gang members dead, has been sentenced to 57 months in federal prison on a conviction of felon in possession of ammunition.

Dedric Delaine Mayfield, 39, also must serve three years on supervised release after completing his sentence.

Acting U. S. Attorney Bob Troyer called it a victory for community safety. Troyer said, "People should be able to go to a car wash in the middle of the day without bullets flying past their heads. If you're pulling that trigger, you're going straight to federal prison."

According to police reports, Mayfield and a friend were at a car wash next to a gasoline station and convenience store in Denver, washing an SUV. A group of rival gang members showed up, triggering a gunfight. The crime was captured on video surveillance tape.

DENVER — How do you pay for badly needed road and bridge repairs? How about having motorists pay by the miles they drive?

Starting this month, the state will test the idea with a group of volunteers, theorizing if it works the need for the 22-cent gasoline tax now collected might be eliminated.

A hundred volunteers will track how far they drive and then pay, in theory, 1.2 cents per mile for their use of the road, although no money will actually change hands.

The state of Colorado has seen a severe drop in gasoline tax because more fuel-efficient vehicles are on the road these days.

"It would be similar to electricity and water — you pay for what you use," said Amy Ford, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation. "This is about fairness."

The test will last four months and it has its share of opponents.

They question whether motorists will accurately report their mileage and cite privacy issues if the state monitors it. And drivers of more fuel-efficient vehicles, including alternative fuel vehicles, could be penalized and will pay even more than others driving less efficient vehicles.

Originally published in the December 2016 issue of the O&A Marketing News.
Copyright 2016 by KAL Publications Inc.

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