Under the Dome column: Setting priorities for the session
Under the Dome
Your Colorado Legislature is well underway, and I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s observation that no citizen is safe when the Legislature is in session. Some 360 bills have been introduced and many subjected to mercy killings by the split houses.
Ideas range from new license plates to criminal prosecutions to complete overhauls of the tax system. And throw in a few resolutions telling the federal government how to act. Since I spend most of my time in the Joint Budget Committee, I tend to look at it all through a spreadsheet. And what a disturbing view that is as we approach the time in this session when we have to balance the budget for the next fiscal year.
There’s not just one but three huge elephants in the budget room, each trying to crowd out the other two and each led by their own army of lobbyist elephant handlers. Education funding, transportation infrastructure and the big bull elephant, health care are all pushing and shoving. Too many worthy smaller budget animals, some of them endangered species, are getting trampled.
It’s my hope that a compromise solution to future transportation funding will emerge that includes bonds for building roads and a way to pay for the bonds. The federal government will change Medicaid and Obamacare and perhaps give us the flexibility to control the growth of costs. We have to have a vision and a plan for education and a much more rational way to fund our schools. I’ve been working in this area for three years, and I hope to have bills this year, along with a bipartisan coalition of my fellow legislators, to tackle the complex and dysfunctional system of school finance that has resulted from past constitutional and statute adventures that conflict and oppose each other.
Although Obamacare reform or replacement may give some relief to our outrageous Western Slope health insurance rates, I worry that the regional rate differences will remain. I intend to sponsor a bill for one statewide rate. I’m still working with the task force to attack the costs of health care in all areas, and I expect several bills to be introduced soon.
With other Western Colorado legislators, I’m very concerned about the collection and spending of severance taxes. The significant variations in collections from year to year cause big swings in TABOR revenue and in the amount of money available for severance-funded programs. I’ll be introducing a bill that will require a voter-approved measure to correct these two issues.
I remain concerned about the state’s role in management of public lands. Colorado could be a much stronger partner with the BLM and the Forest service to manage species protection, mineral extraction, recreation, forest health and other aspects of public land use. Big changes may be coming with new discoveries of natural gas reserves and different policies in regard to public land use. Are we ready?
Thanks again from both Joyce and me for the opportunity to serve. There are challenges, and it’s intense, but the rewards come when you offer your support to our efforts and gratitude for our work.
“Under the Dome” appears on the second Tuesday of the month. State Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, is in his third term in the state Legislature representing House District 57, which includes Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
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