A busy November
The start of the 70th session of the Colorado Legislature is less than a month away, although the Joint Budget Committee (JBC), of which I’m now a member, has been at work for about three weeks.
I’ve also been introduced to many newly elected legislators, and I am reminded of my experience two years ago when I was overwhelmed with the learning experience of being a new representative. Every legislator, in both the House and Senate, can introduce five bills per session. The newly elected have a lot of ideas and promises to keep, so it’s going to be interesting to see what emerges in the first few weeks.
Work on the JBC is intense but a great opportunity to learn the intricacies of Colorado state government. There are six members on the JBC this session. With the split between the Democrat-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate, the six-member JBC is made up of three members from each party.
The state will spend about $26.8 billion, made up of taxes, fees and federal dollars, in the upcoming fiscal year. Because revenue is expected to exceed constitutional limits set by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), the current projection is that the state will refund about $170 million next year, including $30.5 million collected through marijuana sales tax.
K-12 and higher education funding will get another boost, but K-12 funding will still not erase the “negative factor,” a mechanism put into place during the recession to balance the budget. Medicaid has grown faster than expected since the expansion of eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. The committee is sorting through individual program budgets, of which there are many. When we get an updated revenue projection next week, and again in February, we will start to put the top level budget together and see what can fund the new bills brought forth by the current legislators. If you’re wondering whether or not there will be a quiz at the end of this column, I’ll forgo it until next month.
The Roan Plateau settlement has now been signed and an environmental impact study can proceed to allow gas development on half of the lands originally leased. Hopefully the experience can be used to start discussions on the Thompson Divide leases.
I have two bills in draft form. The first will funnel more support to rural schools. My second important bill is a repeat of a bill that I introduced last year to strengthen the state’s role in our partnership with the federal government. The Roan Plateau settlement and the current sage-grouse protection issue are perfect examples of why this bill is so important. It will enable the state and counties to work together toward resolution of these important and complicated issues.
Joyce continues to work as my legislative aide and is very busy handling scheduling and constituent issues. She is also working with high school students throughout the district who have volunteered for her “Intern in the Field” program. The students will learn about state government while keeping us informed of issues in their local communities.
Thank you all for the honor of serving.
“Under the Dome” appears on the second Tuesday of the month. State Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, is in his first term in the state Legislature representing House District 57, which includes Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
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