A group of health care advocates and a Democratic state lawmaker are seeking a 0.25 percent sales tax increase in Denver to raise money for mental health and substance abuse treatment in the city, which they say is lacking.
The proposed November ballot measure would raise $45 million in its first year and continue for 10 years.
If the tax hike passes, along with one seeking up to a full penny per dollar across the state to pay for transportation, Denver’s sales tax rate would be about 9 percent. (The current Denver sales tax rate is 8 percent for food and beverages and liquor sales and 7.65 percent for other purchases.)
Backers of the effort, including Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, the Mental Health Center of Denver and Mental Health Colorado, say it’s a necessary step to create a sustainable way to help struggling people in Denver and identify ways to promote well-being. The group says polling has shown that Denverites would overwhelmingly support such a sales tax increase.
The “Caring for Denver” initiative would need more than 4,700 signatures to get on the ballot.
“People who know they need help can’t get it,” Herod said. “… It’s causing a huge strain on our emergency rooms and our jails. And it’s not the way that we should move forward.”
Providers have said that mental health and substance abuse treatment in the Denver metro area has been dramatically diminished since the recent closure of Arapahoe House.
The only tax increase Denver voters have rejected in recent years came in 2015 when they turned down a 8 cents per $100 hike to fund college scholarships.