Rep. Bob Rankin’s Under the Dome: Understanding Colorado's budget

It’s turning out to be a busy summer as expected. There are more opportunities to interact with individual constituents, local governments, schools and businesses and other organizations than there is time. My plan for the summer is to focus on understanding how state government and its funding reach into our West Slope counties and towns.

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Colorado House District 57 Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale

As I dig deeper into state government organization and budgets to prepare for a role on the Joint Budget Committee next year, I’m becoming even more aware of the vast range of services and the complexity of all state governments. More than half of state budgets are actually federal spending programs run under federal law and rules but with some surprising options as to how we implement the programs. It’s interesting and necessary to compare Colorado to other states to find best practices, existing computer systems and standards to measure performance.

Colorado’s state government is a huge $20 billion dollar spending machine that functions in a dizzying web of federal and state law watched over by an elected Legislature and governor’s office. The fact that we measure up pretty well against other states is a tribute to dedicated and hardworking employees in our state government. While we as elected legislators should represent our own citizens as our absolute first priority, I’m learning that we also have to be dedicated to making the system work even better for all the people of Colorado.

The high cost of health care and the insurance rates in rural Colorado will be the subject of analysis and probably a lot of news this summer. The state is conducting a study under a task force, Garfield County will be doing its own study and Club 20 also is putting a working group together. We need to know why our costs and rates are so high but we also need to develop alternatives.

The threat of a special session still looms. The governor is attempting to create a bill that will give local control over some oil and gas regulations to counties and municipalities. This is in order to head off ballot initiatives in the fall that would put regulations into the Colorado constitution. Two large Front Range oil companies support the legislative approach but most of our Western Slope industry is not on board with the details of the proposed bill.

Economic development on the Western Slope is very much on the agenda of our counties and towns. I’m pushing a concept that I’m calling “Share the Prosperity.” I have the support of the Aerospace Round Table and our Western Slope higher education institutions. The concept is simply to ask our booming Front Range companies to put some of their jobs in our wonderful Western Colorado towns through small remote operations or internet commuters. My vision is a virtual business and high tech community that reaches across the mountains. With the development of broadband and the support of this year’s legislation, we will have the tools to move forward to share the exciting activity that is currently confined to the towns along the eastern part of the state.

Thank you for your support and thanks to the Craig Daily Press for publishing these columns. I get a lot of informal comments from people who read them. I’m always amazed at how much the state government affects our lives and yet how little I knew about its structure and functions until I got involved. I think a big part of my job is to communicate what I’m learning and doing, so the opportunity to write a short column every month is very important to me.

State Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, represents House District 57, encompassing Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.

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