Area lawmakers say the squeeze is still on

Heading into a new legislative session, state legislators still have money on their minds.

Moffat County's state legislators predicted the state government would once again focus on the budget difficulties caused by two recent amendments to the state constitution.

"The biggest issue will be TABOR and Amendment 23," said Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, who represents House District 57.

The Taxpayer's Bills of Rights, commonly referred to as TABOR, mandates all tax increases must first be approved by taxpayers and requires governments in Colorado return any tax surpluses to their constituents.

Amendment 23 requires the state to annually increase funding for kindergarten through twelfth grade.

"There's a squeeze between TABOR and Amendment 23 causing trouble even if the economy gets better," said Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, who represents Senate District 8.

Taylor said that although he expects the state government will have to cut less from this year's budget than from 2003's, TABOR could require the government to return $800 million in taxes. He said he worries that will cut into "funding for everything."

Taylor said he believes Amendment 23 is a positive amendment. Funding for kindergarten through twelfth grade is in good shape, he said.

"The heart of the problem is, it's causing cuts in other areas," Taylor said.

White said TABOR and Amendment 23 take too much power any from the state government.

"Ultimately, we run out of any discretionary power," he said.

White is supporting a constitutional convention, composed of elected delegates, that will explore these issues and make a recommendation to the Colorado Legislature.

Taylor said he supports putting an initiative on November's ballot to revise either TABOR or Amendment 23, but he worries it will take two to three years to enact any change following that course of action.

"These are very tough issues, unless we do something innovative to see our way out of the briar patch," Taylor said.

The 120-day legislative session began Jan. 6.

White said he intends to introduce a tort-reform bill to better manage lawsuits in Colorado, and a utility notification bill, so cities can perform routine street maintenance without contacting utility companies.

Taylor said he plans to concentrate on water issues, specifically basin of origin protection.

He said he would like to see some action taken to ensure that when water is taken from one basin, it stays in that area. His concern is that if too much water is removed from one basin, it could destroy agriculture and harm tourism in that area.

Taylor also said he would oppose what he called an "open, blatant run to get more money for Denver," which he expects the Denver Regional Council of Governments --an association of 50 county and municipal governments in the Denver area -- to make during the next couple months.

"I will battle to make sure our area's money doesn't get raided," Taylor said.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.