Ron Wackowski: Dedicate all royalties from mineral leases to education |

Ron Wackowski: Dedicate all royalties from mineral leases to education

On June 30, Congressman Scott Tipton announced his proposed “Education and Energy Act.” The Congressman touted that this was a “win-win for Coloradans” because “funding our schools is of the utmost importance.” This bill would “support public education through the responsible development of energy resources.”

What I can condense down from the email was that this bill directs some money back to counties when 1. the mineral lease is new, and 2. the royalties generated in a fiscal year exceed the Congressional Budget Office predictions.

I have tried since I received the email to talk to someone at the Congressman’s office about this bill. I made many calls, requested a return call from a staffer and sent emails to specific individuals in the Congressman’s office. I have received no return phone calls or emails.

I believe there are some issues with this proposed bill.

• I agree that education is of “utmost importance.” So, why not find a way to help rural communities with education funding that is consistent and reliable? How are rural school districts supposed to budget for education if the funding is dependent on the royalties generated being more than CBO projections?

• Although education is listed first in the bill’s name, it actually seems like an afterthought. Education funding might be available but only related to new leases? This feels like constituent blackmail. The Congressman is essentially saying “If you want (occasional) federal money for education, you have to accept mineral development where industry wants to do it, regardless of competing uses.”

Why not dedicate some of all royalty from all mineral leases to education, including current ones? And, why not make this funding available regardless of projection? The Congressman doesn’t seem to be concerned about the deficit now, so using those funds for education rather than their current use shouldn’t be a problem.

I would have liked to talk to someone about these issues, but it sounds like the Congressman’s preferred strategy is now, “Don’t answer. Don’t explain. Don’t debate.” There must be an election coming up.

Ron Wackowski

Steamboat Springs

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