The state has a long road ahead of it if it wants the economy to return to a pre-recession abundance of jobs and tax revenue, said state Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs.
Baumgardner visited Craig on Thursday while the Legislature is out of session.
He said it seems his constituents are concerned about what will happen to K-12 public education funding and that he wanted to address the volumes of e-mails he’s received in the past few months.
“I want to let the people know I’m very concerned about the e-mails people have been sending me to protect Amendment 23,” Baumgardner said.
Amendment 23 requires the state to fund public education an extra amount each year determined by the inflation rate plus 1 percent.
Legislators, however, have discussed cutting education funding to help balance the budget deficit, which Baumgardner said is allowed by the Constitution because the amendment includes a provision allowing cuts in the event of a fiscal emergency.
Moffat County’s state representative said he cannot see a way for the Legislature to avoid making some cuts to public education.
If that’s the case, Baumgardner added, he would like to see a more even split between cuts to K-12 and higher education.
“If we’re going to have to take money out of K-12 and higher ed, I’d like to see more of a balance,” he said.
Although state revenues likely will decrease for at least the next year, Baumgardner said there have not been formal conversations within the Legislature about increasing taxes.
“There has been some talk about other fee increases,” he said, referring to the state’s recent move to increase costs for vehicle registrations.
Among the possibilities are toll roads and a charge for vehicle miles traveled, which would increase registration fees depending on how many miles the vehicle drove the last year.
“Whether any of that happens or not, I don’t know where it will go,” Baumgarder said.
He was much more definitive in his response as to whether he would support fees.
“Absolutely not,” Baumgardner said. “No. No. I would not.”
Instead, he said a better way to create jobs and restore Colorado’s economy would be to lower taxes and simplify regulations, especially on businesses.
However, Baumgardner said he does not want to dismantle environmental protections against energy development.
“We can make the state more business-friendly,” Baumgardner said. “I’m not saying lower our standards for any type of impact to air or water or public health or anything. … I’m not against regulations. I don’t want oil in my water. I don’t want this brown cloud over my town, either. But, I don’t think industry is out to do that. We all recognize what’s at stake.”
Baumgardner also addressed the recent fervor over medical marijuana, which has been a hot topic for the Craig City Council during the last three months.
“That should be up to the towns and the counties whether they want to allow it or not,” he said.
Medical marijuana was legalized in 2000 in Colorado when voters passed a constitutional amendment.
Recently, private citizens have started opening medical marijuana dispensaries as businesses to provide marijuana to registered patients after the State Board of Health chose not to put a limit on how many patients one person could serve.
The council passed an ordinance last month regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, which limits where the businesses can be, what times they are open and how they can operate.
There was some input from local residents and Councilor Byron Willems that the city should ban all dispensaries, even though it would all but guarantee a lawsuit for violating the state Constitution.
However, Baumgardner said he would like local communities to have that authority and that he would consider supporting a citizen’s initiative to change Amendment 20 to allow for local control.