My work on the JBC this month consisted of understanding and voting on “supplementals.” These are bills that bring the budget that ends next July in line with actual spending and forecasts for the rest of this fiscal year. The biggest growth in this year is coming from additional case load and costs in Medicaid and overruns in information technology projects.
We move next week onto “figure setting,” which sets the budget for July 2015 through the June 2016 fiscal year. The state of Colorado will spend about $26 billion next year from a combination of taxes, fees and federal dollars. But the work of the JBC isn’t just about numbers. We also are responsible for overseeing the department’s operations and performance. There are just six of us on the JBC, three from each party, and we’re working together very cooperatively this year to solve real problems.
Budget forecasts show that we will hit the TABOR (from a 1992 bill named the Taxpayer Bill of Rights) limit of revenue spending next year and perhaps even yet in this fiscal year. That means that revenue over this limit must be refunded in the form of rebates to the citizens. I describe our next few years of budgeting as a crisis. The state will then be refunding tax dollars while K-12 and higher education, along with transportation and other programs are receiving less than in the past.
I’ve also been very involved in discussions about how to use a one-time surge in severance taxes. The governor has asked for a large part of this year collections to be used for TABOR refunds. I expect severance tax collections to fall by more than 50 percent next year, so I am advocating that this year’s collections be used to smooth out the distributions to our impacted areas next year.
I argued and was successful in the Joint Budget Committee hearings this week to continue the state’s purchase of compressed natural gas powered vehicles. There aren’t yet enough fueling stations in the state to absolutely prove that CNG is a cost-saver for the state. Since my district produces so much natural gas and it’s a less polluting and less expensive fuel, I’ll continue to advocate for Colorado to lead the way in its use.
The so called “Death with Dignity” bill was heard in the house judicial committee this week with 10 hours of very intense and compelling testimony. In the end, the bill failed in committee with a bipartisan majority voting against it. This was one of the finest examples of public testimony and involvement in an important bill that I’ve witnessed in my time in the Capitol.
Now that the Republicans have the majority in the Senate, but not the House, there have been and will be attempts to roll back some of the more controversial legislation of the last two years. Several gun control bills have been derailed in the House State Affairs Committee, but one bill, repealing the magazine capacity limit, started in the Senate and will now go to the House. Another bill, rolling back the renewable energy mandate, is also still surviving.
Our “Intern in the Field” program is gaining steam. It’s a real pleasure to read the weekly reports from our high school interns and see what is currently happening in House District 57. One of the requirements of the interns is to visit the Capitol. Fionna Laird from Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale completed her requirement when she visited last week with Club 20. We had a fine day together introducing her to other legislators, aides and interns and showing her around the Capitol.
As always, thanks for paying attention to state politics and for you encouragement and support.
“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.