Under the Dome column: The train has left the station
Under the Dome
The 2018 legislative session is underway. For the Joint Budget Committee, that is. We received the governor’s request on Nov. 1, and we’re busy digging into and questioning as much of the $30 billion of spending as we can. Government budgeting amounts to incremental spending on top of last year’s budget and funding new laws passed during the session. We also investigate problem areas and pay attention to constituent or lobbyist input. At the level where budget and policy meet real people, there are over a thousand “programs” from highway construction to substance treatment and everything in between. It’s hard to measure true effectiveness of every program and “pay for performance.” But we do try.
This year there may be more money for K-12 education including reducing the amount of what was called the “negative factor” and is now the budget stabilization factor. That’s a number we subtract after we calculate what goes to each school district. I know, it sounds strange, but that’s just one example of how constitutional amendments and statutes complicate our lives. I could propose ballot amendments to fix some of the craziness, but it’s too complicated to explain.
There may also be more money for our higher education institutions. Tuition is too high and student debt is soaring. Colorado has historically contributed more tax dollars to our higher education budget than we currently do, and some would like to go back to those levels of support.
That’s my day job. I slip away at every opportunity to work on the Education Leadership Council that I co-chair. Our plan is to shape a vision for the future of education from early childhood to workforce and beyond. Treating education as a seamless system, exposing students to choices, and providing equal opportunities are goals that every school district, advocacy group, legislator, teacher and parent can buy into. We’re spending a lot of time reaching out to get broad acceptance of our process and goals.
But I still put my district first, both during budget actions and my own bills. I’ll be running a bill to reduce our private insurance rates. I’m also going to try once more to set up a public lands commission to help us deal with our federal partners. I’ll sponsor a bill to allow apprenticeships for teachers in rural areas. I’m constructing a bill to build out broadband in rural areas. And I’m looking at co-sponsoring a bill on hospital cost transparency. I’m still working on severance taxes and supporting tourism funding.
Sounds like a lot, and it is, but after five years representing you I’m pretty focused on what I want to get done. I appreciate your good thoughts and support. If you don’t see me on the street corner, it’s because I’m in Denver working for you.
“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.