Emily Anderson
Free Press Staff Writer

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September 14, 2008
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College trustees back energy tax credit proposal

GRAND JUNCTION " Mesa State College Board of Trustees members agreed Friday to endorse Amendment 58, a statewide general election ballot measure that would eliminate a tax credit for oil and gas producers and funnel 60 percent of the new money into college scholarships in Colorado.

Past Colorado Commission on Higher Education chair and Amendment 58 supporter Ray Baker asked the trustees to endorse the constitutional amendment Sept. 3 at a Board of Trustees meeting at the college. The board decided to postpone their endorsement decision until Sept. 12 after some trustees expressed discomfort about making a decision last week.

Some trustees, like Glen Gallegos, who did not vote on the endorsement Friday, said they didn't know enough about the amendment. Others said they wanted to speak with oil and gas operators and Gov. Bill Ritter, sponsor of the amendment, before proceeding with their support.

"I think it's unanimous that we are all behind (Ritter's) efforts to support higher education, but I think we need to be aware of our neighbors and that we are in a different position than the other colleges," Board President Charlie Monfort said Sept. 3, referring to Mesa State's close proximity to oil and gas fields in Mesa and Garfield counties.

Three of the trustees " Norm Franke, Lena Elliott and Monfort " plus College President Tim Foster met with oil and gas representatives this week. The energy employees were "disappointed but understood" the trustees' endorsement, according to college spokeswoman Dana Nunn.

Three more trustees " Monfort, Franke and Mike Feeley " spoke with Ritter Friday morning before the unanimous vote to endorse.

The trustees' one disappointment with the amendment is that the scholarships get money in a hierarchy system, with research colleges first, four-year colleges second and community colleges third.

"There are no research colleges on the Western Slope," Nunn said.

Reach Emily Anderson at eanderson@gjfreepress.com

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