Opinion: ‘Troublesome’ legislative session is coming to an end
For the Steamboat Pilot & Today
We just returned to Denver after an all too rare visit home and to events on the Western Slope. A quick stop in Summit County and then on to Grand Junction for Club 20’s spring meeting followed by the Garfield County Republican dinner in Carbondale. It was great to see friends and escape the frantic pace of the Capitol for a couple of days.
The 2019 legislative session is nearing an end. Over 600 bills will have been introduced. About 50 of them will be controversial and will engender public outrage with a lot of press coverage. The others will be cleanups, necessary enactments or continuation of existing programs. Some will be budget related and will fund ongoing and new spending.
Education gets a big boost next year with funding for full-day kindergarten, $120 million more for higher education and a $77 million increase for the year to year K-12 funding. I’m still working for a continuation of a $30 million supplement for our rural schools.
We need a long-term fix to the formula that distributes K-12 funding and the underlying property tax contribution. It seems to me that the legislature would rather find new ideological battles than fix these long-standing Gordian knots in our constitution and statute.
Just as the legislature was making these new commitments, our March forecast for future revenue showed a leveling of growth leaving me concerned that we can pay for these new promises in the next few years. And how do we pay for new roads and bridges? Can we repeat the $500 million in last year’s budget or the $300 million in this year’s? We need to.
I’ve been very involved in the budget process again as the longest-standing member of the Joint Budget Committee, but this year, it was a new experience to be a minority member since the majority in both houses results in the budget committee composed of four members from the majority and two from the minority.
We still had to balance the budget and work together to do so. I’ve complemented my fellow committee members for our bipartisan work on the budget. I wish I could say the same for other bills coming through the process.
Amid a troublesome session, I’ve been honored to carry — sponsor — several bills requested by my constituents as well as bills originating from the Joint Budget Committee. I’m also a prime sponsor on the revised “Read Act” and several bills to address the high cost of health care. We’re on track with bipartisan work to dramatically reduce the disparity in health insurance premiums between the Front Range and rural Colorado.
And I’m still learning how to be a Senator after six years in the House. Thanks for all the support and encouragement from all of you that I’ve represented for those six years and especially from the warm welcome from all the new folks I’m meeting in the larger Senate district.
I’m receiving a lot of emails, but I promise to try and keep reading every one that’s an individual message — no use reading the same one over a hundred times. It’s an honor to serve you.
Colorado Senator Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, serves on the Joint Budget Committee and represents Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Grand, Jackson and Summit counties.
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