Under the Dome column: The special session that wasn’t
Under the Dome
Well, the two-day “special session” of the Legislature turned out to be not so special. The call to session was so narrowly defined that we couldn’t offer alternative solutions. The proposed solution was controversial depending on how you interpret the constitution. The dollar amount was small relative to many budget issues. I believe we can fix the issue and support the affected special districts during the next regular session. Why was the session even called?
The Gallagher Amendment, added to the Colorado Constitution in 1982, has, over the years, complicated tax collections across the state. This amendment requires statewide tax collections to maintain a balance that is 55 percent commercial, 45 percent residential. When property taxes increase faster than commercial taxes, due to increases in population, particularly in the Front Range, the Legislature is required to lower residential assessment levels. The effect is that counties and special districts that rely on local taxes lose revenue. Colorado Mountain College (CMC) has come up with a very innovative solution to this dilemma that will appear on our ballots in November. I believe the measure will be a template for other taxing districts. When approved by “we, the voters,” the new measure will enable CMC to react to future Gallagher adjustments by maintaining revenues without increasing residential taxes.
My work as co-chair of the resurrected Education Leadership Council is gaining momentum. Our second meeting will be in Pueblo this month. The objective of the council is to reach out to the education establishments across the state including public, private and nonprofit elements to synthesize a single unifying vision that will lead the state to become a world class 21st century center of learning and career preparation. I’m more convinced than ever that we need to help align the hundreds of new bills every year, the 40 advocacy groups, the 178 school districts, the institutions of higher education, hundreds of nonprofits, private schools and lifelong learning, toward a future that provides opportunity for all of us. And at the same time we have to honor our tradition of local control.
I’ll be back in Denver full time, after the first week in November, to start hearings as a member of the Joint Budget Committee. We are looking at the usual tensions between the big three: health care, education and transportation. The growth of revenue is projected to be about $667 million, but of course most of the revenue growth is absorbed by mandated spending growth in case load, students and even some growth in prison population this year. We will try to find more money for transportation. I’ll continue to advocate for Western Slope support and issues that are often quite different from those of the urbanized Front Range.
Thanks to Randy Essex and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent for a great session Saturday. Joyce and I enjoyed sharing our views on how to stay active at any age.
“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.