Rankin column: Budget work mostly done; other bills remain
Under the Dome
There’s a lot happening at the state Capitol.
Since I was appointed to the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) and joined it in November, I’ve spent a lot of time reading about, discussing and attempting to understand the budget of Colorado. In the past two weeks the final report was presented to the Legislature.
Our process and the resulting $26.4 billion budget were transparent and bipartisan, and the result was well-received. Even with growing health-care spending, we were able to add substantial money, above last year’s spending, to transportation and education. For the first time in years, we were required to set aside $128 million for taxpayer refunds under the taxpayer bill of rights (TABOR).
I resisted but lost a transfer, or “sweep,” of severance taxes to the general fund. These taxes are normally distributed to counties and used to support programs in the Department of Natural Resources. Of the $343 million of collections this year, $20 million is being swept to pay for other programs and TABOR refunds. I’m considering a bill to take severance funds out from under the TABOR refund calculation and protect severance revenue from future sweeps in to the general fund.
With work on the budget largely behind us, I’m focusing on some significant bills, originating with the JBC and some from my own interests or constituent needs. It looks like I’ll get my public lands bill passed with bipartisan and broad-based support. I have a bill to channel more support to rural and small school districts that will start to address the inequality in our school finance formula, and I am working on a bill for a two-year project to redo the basic formula. I’m also working on another bipartisan bill to implement contracts called “pay for success” that will allow private contractors to deliver social services and get paid if the contract work meets well-defined goals.
I’m working on a number of other bills including the well-publicized “I-70 Snow Tire/Chain Bill” with Rep. Diane Mitsch-Bush that requires cars be equipped with adequate tires or chains. I ran a bill that has already been signed to update regulations of radioactive materials and another to purchase land in Garfield County where the Department of Natural Resources offices are located.
One of the JBC bills that I carried calls for the state to transfer $23 million over three years to hold harmless the counties that would have seen reduced federal mineral lease payments as a result the Roan Plateau settlement that occurred last fall.
I’m helping to carry other JBC bills that will have major impact in future years. One of them puts in place a process for analyzing and recommending changes to the rates paid to providers of Medicaid services. Another changes the way we plan for and fund building projects.
I’m doing a lot, but there are also a lot of other interesting bills passing this year in a Legislature that’s more balanced than previous years where the majorities in two houses are split. I’ll be wrapping up the session in next month’s report when I’ll focus on the highlights. Meanwhile, read my Facebook and e-mail reports, and let me know your concerns. Thank you for your continuing support and encouragement for Joyce and me.
It’s an honor to serve you.
“Under the Dome” appears on the second Tuesday of the month. State Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, is in his second term in the Legislature representing House District 57, which includes Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
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