COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- It's a topic that's been discussed several times in Colorado Springs but never seems to gain any traction: recreational marijuana and the tax benefits it can bring to Olympic City.
Now, with the $20 million in budget cuts and possibly $18 million more within the next few months, Colorado College economics professor Neal Rappaport says recreational marijuana could make up that deficit by nearly 90 percent.
"Arranged from $8 million to $17 million -- whether you go for the lower rate or the higher rate," Rappaport said.
At the highest tax, he says it would cover 88 percent of the $20 million cut. At it's lowest tax, it would cover nearly 40 percent. These estimates are just from one year of sales tax revenue.
“I chose the most conservative estimates for this,” Rappaport said.
These estimates were comprised of demographic data, state data, city budgets, and tax reports. Rappaport says it won't cover everything but could put a huge dent in making up those cuts.
However, Mayor John Suthers says it's not worth it. As of now, medical marijuana brings in $3 million a year to Colorado Springs and his experts estimate recreational sales would bring in only $7 million.
“That doesn’t come close to making up what we think our deficit shortfall is going to be this year,” Suther said. The mayor says this is especially when you add potential additional cuts to the budget.
Suthers says it's a short-sighted goal that could jeopardize U.S. Space Command from being headquartered in Colorado Springs permanently. Suthers says, "The economic benefit of having U.S. Space Command will grossly exceed seven million dollars a year."
It's an argument Suthers has made multiple times when recreational cannabis is discussed, but City Council member Bill Murray says it's not a good excuse.
“For the folks that are concerned about marijuana again, it’s four miles away,” Murray said talking about Manitou Springs. Murray added that Colorado Springs is missing out on millions from residents here buying recreational weed there. It's money he thinks Colorado Springs deserves and could help during this pandemic.
“The practical way to handle it is to license it and regulate it within the confines of your own community, not somebody else's,” Murray said.