Moffat County Commission addresses state budget

Also at the meeting

At its regular Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 3-0, a transfer of payment of warrants for October totaling $539,163.47.

• Approved, 3-0, a service agreement with Xerox for the Dinosaur branch of the Moffat County Libraries totaling $1,698 for products and a $15 per month maintenance contract.

• Approved, 3-0, an AFLAC group insurance plan for extra coverage for employees to purchase at their discretion for two additional services.

• Approved, 3-0, a contract between the Museum of Northwest Colorado and the Brown Shoe Company regarding copyright use of the Buster Brown image and name in the museum’s book, “Buster Brown and the Cowboy.”

• Approved, 3-0, an invitation to bid on 15,771 acres of mineral lease land at a five-year lease with a minimum bid of $100 per acre for the county and the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

• Approved, 2-1, the Buckley re-subdivision on an original 35-acre parcel. The re-subdivision would change Lot 2 into two, 10-acre parcels and Lot 3 into two, five-acre parcels.

• Tabled a presentation from Lynnette Running of the human resources department for worker’s compensation insurance bid recommendations.

• Discussed issues surrounding the Moffat County motocross track and the possibility of leasing the track to individuals.

• Heard a monthly report from Linda DeRose of the road and bridge department.

The Moffat County Commission discussed Tuesday the recently proposed state budget and what it might mean for Northwest Colorado and its rural counties.

At its regular Tuesday meeting, the commission discussed the cuts made by the state in an attempt to balance its budget, as well as how governor-elect John Hickenlooper may address the budget in the future and what steps he may take to boost the state’s economy.

The budget, which was proposed by Gov. Bill Ritter on Nov. 2, calls for spending $20.6 billion, $7.6 billion of which will be allocated for the general fund, according to a news release.

With the proposed budget, Ritter will have cut costs and closed shortfalls by more than $5.2 billion since the 2008-09 fiscal year, according to the release.

But, the general fund still faces up to a $714.6 million shortfall, according to the release.

The shortfall is largely caused by a $422 million loss in Recovery Act funding, according to the release.

Commissioner Tom Gray said cuts to the state’s budget are necessary.

“There is no other answer — the spending has to be reduced,” he said.

But, Gray said he is concerned with how the state’s budget is reduced, what services have been cut and what funds have been re-allocated to balance the budget.

“I think we have sat here and had issues with what the Ritter administration chose to cut and what they chose to fund and how they chose to do it, but there has to be a reduction in spending at the government levels,” he said.

The budget also calls for pulling $42 million from funds generated by severance taxes, portions of which would have gone back to counties like Moffat, for impacts from oil and gas developments.

The cut to the severance tax fund is something commissioner Tom Mathers took issue with.

“I always have heartburn when they take our tax money away from us,” he said. “All that does is push the shortfall from their budget to our budget. We have got nowhere to go.”

Mathers also expressed concerns with the state’s shortfall caused by the lack of Recovery Act money.

“Now, the feds didn’t give ($400 million) to the state so now the state is, ‘Oh woe is me, how am I going to balance my budget?’” he said. “They balanced it (last year) on someone else’s money, not what the state takes in. Sooner or later, they’re going to have to do just like the counties.

“They’ve got to say, ‘How much money do we have coming in? That is what we have to spend.’”

Gray said the Ritter administration had a “record” of making cuts in areas “it doesn’t favor and funding areas it likes (such as) renewable energy.”

Gray also mentioned transportation funding as an example of such budget attitudes.

“There was all kinds of money from the governor’s budget to fund hiking trails and biking trails, and we can’t get (Colorado) Highway 13 north of Craig overlayed,” he said.

When asked how he thought Hickenlooper might address the 2012-13 budget, Gray said the commission has “no way of knowing.”

“But, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and take him at his word when he was campaigning that he was going to be fair and balanced and look at the big picture,” Gray said.

Gray said part of giving Hickenlooper the “benefit of the doubt” stems from him being a “businessman” and “knows which goose lays the golden egg and it’s not government.”

“He is going to have to make some decisions that let the engine that drives our economy, which is the private sector, get out and go,” he said.

Mathers also expressed concern about how Hickenlooper would address energy development in the state.

Mathers said he hoped Hickenlooper would be balanced in his approach to energy development, as the commissioner believes his campaign promised.

“Of course if you remember when Ritter ran, he did come up here and say that he supported the oil and gas industry,” he said.

Moreover, Mathers said he would like to have a governor of the whole state, “instead of another mayor of Denver.”

“Somebody that takes all of Colorado into consideration other than just the Front Range,” he said. “That’s what seems to happen all the time because that is where all the people are. … It’s like we have become an outcast.”

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