Budget cuts top Sen. Al White’s concerns

State senator speaks durning Moffat County Commission meeting

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State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden.

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The Moffat County Commission planned to appear at the regular Dinosaur Town Council meeting Tuesday in Dinosaur, but canceled because of weather conditions. The meeting had not been rescheduled as of Tuesday afternoon.

— Colorado Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, is hopeful the bleeding has stopped.

Or at least coagulated.

White told the Moffat Cou­nty Commission during its regular meeting Tuesday that the state budget’s freefall might begin to bottom out by the end of the year.

“I’m hopeful in the next month, we’ll see a flattening of revenues, not just a plummeting of revenues,” he said.

The Colorado Office of State Planning and Budget is due to release updated revenue projections Dec. 18, White said. To this point, estimates released in October and November have been in line with what legislators and state officials planned.

“Which doesn’t mean they’re up,” White added. “It means they’re not down from their projections.”

He cautioned, though, that officials saw such positive developments in April and May when it also appeared state revenues were stabilizing.

Then, in June, it became known there would be a roughly $249 million shortfall in income tax revenues, and Gov. Bill Ritter announced a series of cuts, White said.

The commissioners also discussed a series of state ballot initiatives that could impact the 2010 November election.

Amendment 20 and proposition 101 have both met the 76,047-signature limit needed, said Rich Coolidge, communications director for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

In fact, both collected about 140,000 signatures, Coolidge said.

Amendment 60 would overturn any election result that allows a county, school district or other taxing districts from keeping revenue above limits set out in the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and sets a four-year limit on any such action in the future.

The initiative also puts a 10-year limit on all voter-approved property tax increases.

Proposition 101 would make several revenue cuts to state and local entities, including lowering income tax rates from 4.63 percent to 3.5 percent; cutting vehicle registration, license and title fees to $10 per vehicle; and prohibiting all telecommunications fees except those that fund 911 emergency services.

A third initiative had not met the signature criteria as of Tuesday afternoon.

Initiative 21, which will be known as Amendment 61 if approved, proposes additional limitations on the amount of money local counties can borrow.

Coolidge said state officials will know whether initiative 21 collected enough signatures by Friday.

White said all three seem like good ideas on first glance but that the ramifications from each are so widespread and potentially disastrous to state and county budgeting that he cannot support them at this time.

“Those are hugely concerning to me, because I think the average voter is going to say, ‘Wow, this sounds like a great deal. Those dummies in Denver and Washington (D.C.) … are spending more of my money than they can spend and they’re spending it recklessly.’

“They don’t look at the local impacts. They don’t anticipate how much money goes to schools or to social services program deliveries or natural resources or anything else.”

In particular, proposition 101’s income tax reduction could drastically affect the state’s ability to pay for services and cause significant unforeseen consequences because of other constitutional and legal requirements, White said.

For instance, income taxes pay for some of K-12 public education funding, he said. Without income taxes, the state will be required to backfill education funding from the general fund, likely resulting in cuts to education and other services.

“I can’t imagine what a 1.125 percent reduction, which would be roughly 25 percent of our state income tax revenue, would do to our budget,” White said. “It would be, I can’t even imagine it, it would be about (a $1.5 billion to $2 billion) reduction in revenue.”

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