Under the Dome column: It’s campaign season
Under the Dome
Yikes, it’s campaign season.
A friend of mine complained, overwhelmed by life’s demands, that “everything seems important, but not very.” He was obviously having problems sorting out his priorities.
I always intend to use the summer studying issues left over from last year’s legislative session and prepare for next year, but I get swamped with opportunities to walk in parades or visit with local government or just talk with constituents. And this summer is even more intense because there really are some big issues in our state and our region, and all anyone wants to talk about is the presidential election. I try to avoid that conversation and pretend I don’t know who’s running for president. You have to have some sense of priority.
Speaking of priorities, we just got the results of a study required by a bill that I co-sponsored. We asked the insurance commissioner to study whether one statewide health insurance rate would help us lower the costs of private individual and group insurance in western Colorado, some of the highest in the nation. Some families are paying more for health insurance than they pay for rent. We have nine rates under the Affordable Care Act in the state, related to geographic areas.
People getting policies through the ACA pay 40 percent more than Boulder. Led by a motivated group of county commissioners, we Western Slope legislators are determined to improve this situation. While one rate would dramatically lower our costs, it’s a tough political battle since one statewide rate would raise some Front Range costs.
I was pleased that my Joint Budget Committee, in a special meeting on Aug. 1, released $20 million of severance tax funds to be used for grants to local governments. We had frozen those funds late in the legislative session after the Colorado Supreme Court had ruled in favor of a lawsuit that could have, and may still, result in large refunds of taxes previously paid. Our communities depend on those grants, so I was strongly in support of maintaining the funding stream.
I think we, as a state, have to face up to the unsustainable growth of the state share of Medicaid costs. It’s obvious that if those costs grow faster than our revenue collections, other spending, notably education, gets squeezed. There are Medicaid reform measures that have been implemented in other states that we must consider.
I continue to be involved in reforms to K12 finance to make sure our schools have adequate funding.
We’re about to find out which ballot measures will be on our November slate. I’ll review the ones that obtained enough signatures in next month’s column.
Local and state elections are heating up. Take time to decide which candidates you support. I try to keep this writing nonpartisan but … vote for me, I’m running unopposed.
So if I can avoid watching cable TV news and talking about the presidential race, maybe I can move the needle a little bit on the people’s business in Colorado. In any event, Joyce and I are both motivated and involved, and we appreciate the opportunity that you’ve given us to serve.
“Under the Dome” appears on the second Tuesday of the month. State Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, is in his second term in the state Legislature representing House District 57, which includes Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
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Cleaning up isn’t cheap — that much is clear following estimates it would take $200,000 to clean up all of the roughly 80 homeless encampments in Glenwood Springs.