Garfield County commissioners oppose severance tax initiative |

Garfield County commissioners oppose severance tax initiative

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Garfield County commissioners on Monday approved a resolution opposing a proposed state ballot initiative that would raise the state’s severance tax.

Initiative 113, which is supported by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, would also eliminate a local property tax credit that allows oil and gas producers to take a credit of up to 87.5 percent of the prior year’s property tax liability from their severance taxes. The initiative has yet to make the November ballot.

Commissioners approved the resolution on a 2-1 vote. It is based on a measure recently approved by Club 20, a lobbying group that includes business and government leaders. Commissioners John Martin and Larry McCown voted in favor of approving the resolution, while Commissioner Tresi Houpt voted against it.

“We are going to be extremely impacted if this legislation should pass,” McCown said.

The resolution supported by the commissioners said more than 90 percent of the new severance tax dollars would be controlled by the state and do not return to “local communities experiencing the impacts of energy development.” It also said the minimal new dollars received by energy-producing counties from Initiative 113 are “mandated to be spent for narrow purposes and don’t allow local governments to respond in a flexible and efficient manner to energy impacts.”

If the initiative passes, it may provide the state with $200 million more a year from severance taxes. The majority of that money go to college scholarships, with the remaining money split between communities affected by gas and oil development, along with wildlife habitat and clean energy projects.

McCown presented the resolution to the commissioners on Monday, saying they should consider it because of the impacts natural gas development is currently having on Garfield County. Last year the state issued 6,368 drilling permits, with 40 percent of those permits for wells in Garfield County.

Houpt voted against the resolution because she said it was premature to vote on it until county commissioners take more time to look at figures showing how much severance tax money the proposed initiative may bring the county.

“Depending on who you talk to, we either benefit greatly from this or we don’t,” Houpt said.

Martin said Initiative 113 is “totally different” from what presidents and deans of Colorado’s universities have brought forward for possibly using severance taxes to help bolster the state’s universities. He added that they don’t support the measure.

“It is going to be a polarizing issue,” Martin said of the initiative’s future.

Martin said western Colorado counties are mostly affected by energy development but continue to see a drain of severance tax money. He added counties like Garfield County haven’t been consulted in the drafting of Initiative 113.

“I have to agree that this is adverse to us and the region,” Martin said. “We should have been consulted.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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