Under the Dome column: What am I doing here? A lot
Under the Dome
Budget: There’s a raging debate coming on how to spend almost half a billion dollars of extra money that resulted from the good news since the November forecast. Should the Legislature increase funding for transportation, or education, or put more in reserves for the next downturn? How about water projects, health care, corrections and public safety? As the Joint Budget Committee member from the Western Slope, my priorities don’t always align with my colleagues’. I have to keep reminding them that we’re the real Colorado. It’s good to have more money, but it’s like sharks in a feeding frenzy.
Education Leadership Council: I’m enjoying my work as co-chair of the ELC. We’re moving into the second primary phase of the plan and creating subcommittees. I expect fundamental reform and a vision of the future for Colorado’s education system to emerge. The participation is bipartisan and very inclusive.
K12 funding: I want more funding for education and especially our great teachers and administrators in the K12 system. But I also want the money to be more equitably distributed. The pattern of local approval of local mil levy overrides has resulted in less than equitable funding in rural and poor districts. I’ll be introducing legislation to fix the inequity with the first dollars spent.
The Gallagher Amendment: This a major problem on the horizon that will affect every taxing district in the state. Since western Colorado districts’ total assessed value isn’t growing as fast as the Front Range, they will have to run special elections to stay even. Colorado Mountain College did so, and the measure failed. I don’t see a solution this year, so I’m asking for an interim legislative committee to prepare for a ballot initiative in 2020.
Cost of health care: Every time you or your insurance company pays a bill, you pay a 60 percent tax (fee?) to cover the underpayment of Medicaid and Medicare. And your rural hospitals and providers have a higher overhead than urban hospitals just to keep the doors open to serve us. The “hospital provider fee” was supposed to solve these problems but has not. I’m a part of several complicated attempts to help including my bill to create one geographic insurance region.
Anvil Points Bill: I was honored to work with County Commissioner Samson and Ms. Peterson from the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado to introduce a bill that will assure that money, withheld from our area by the federal government, will be distributed to our counties that were impacted.
Reserves: A question for all you economists: How much reserves should the state put aside from our $12 billion General Fund (the income and sales tax part of the $30 billion budget)? Should it be the current 6.5 percent? Less or more?
Stay in touch. There’s a lot to discuss, and we’re only half way through the session.
State Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, is in his third term in the state Legislature representing House District 57.
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It’s the summer cone-zone time in Basalt. Major projects are planned next week on Midland Avenue and Willits Lane. Drivers can expect detours for a few days.