DENVER – Transportation funding in Senate Bill 17-267, that was billed as the “Sustainability of Rural Colorado” Act, may in fact filter to more-populated areas if a newly-formed association made up of like-minded county commissioners has anything to say about it.
SB 267 was rushed through with more than 70 pages of strike below in the waning moments of the 2017 legislative session. It was billed as the “Grand Deal” by its supporters and the “Grand Betrayal” by its detractors.
There is no doubt it was controversial throughout the process because it involved reclassifying the Hospital Provider Fee from a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) governed account to an enterprise, non-TABOR restricted account. It also put into use Certificates of Participation (COPs), which some believe are an end around TABOR. Some also believed it violated Colorado’s single-subject law for new legislation.
Since it was signed into law and took effect July 1, Complete Colorado broke the news that a drafting error would cost special taxing districts such as the Regional Transportation District (RTD) and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), which funds the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, millions in revenue.
Complete Colorado has also learned that an organized group of county commissioners called Counties and Communities Acting Together (CCAT) see the new law as a stepping stone to further weaken TABOR.
In an email obtained by Complete Colorado, Ruth Aponte from Aponte & Busam, public affairs consultants, tells commissioners why they should support SB 267.
“Our co-chairs, commissioners (Tim) Mauck (Clear Creek) and (Rachel) Richards (Pitkin) feel it will be good for CCAT to testify in support of the bill in the House,” Aponte said. “Their thinking is as follows: While not a perfect measure, there is more to like than not to like in the bill, and overall a small step in untangling the state’s budget/TABOR problems.”
In the meantime, the group publicly supported the bill, hoping to gain a favorable position to try to redirect transportation funding to their counties.
“Supporting gives CCAT a little edge to later say ‘hey some of that rural transportation funding needs to be spent in our areas – not just the eastern plains,” Aponte said.
Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, the prime sponsor of the bill did not immediately return phone calls for comment. Complete Colorado will update the story if Sonnenberg gets in touch.
CCAT’s steering committee is made up of commissioners from Boulder, Cleer Creek, Eagle, Grand, Gunnison, Ouray, Pitkin, Routt, San Miguel and Summit counties. Member counties also include Adams, Arapahoe, Archuleta, Broomfield, Chafee, Gilpin, LaPlata, San Juan and Summit Counties.
It’s mission and guiding principals says: “CCAT will work alongside other local government interests to advance a forward-looking agenda for Colorado’s future. CCAT aims to equip counties and commissioners with the tools they need to shape policy and galvanize efforts to defend and advance reforms that support Colorado – our people, our environment and our culture. CCAT will advance policy on the following key issues:
- Protect local control/local design of communities
- Support working families and economic vitality
- Promote healthy people and communities
- Protect public lands
- Ensure environmental sustainability
Michelle Krezek, Commissioner’s Deputy for Boulder County Commissioners, said the group has been working together since the spring. It had its first official retreat last month. They hired Aponte & Busam to “assist with coordination and advocacy.”
“There have been other meetings throughout the 2017 General Assembly session to coordinate on advocacy associated with their 2017 Legislative Agenda,” Krezek said. “The group is open to other commissioners who are interested in and supportive of the mission of this group.”