Money and water | CraigDailyPress.com

Money and water

State senator says budget top legislative issue

Josh Nichols

The rivers are going dry, and so is the cash flow coming into Colorado.

Going into the 2003 legislative session that begins Jan. 8, Sen. Jack Taylor said those two issues are at the forefront of his and his fellow senators’ minds.

“Water issues are going to be huge, but the biggest issue is going to be the budget,” he said.

Taylor said more budget cuts would have to be made but could not yet predict where those cuts would be.

“I wish there was an easy answer,” he said.

But he did say the state is limited as to where it can make its cuts.

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Some areas, like education and Medicaid, can’t be cut, he said.

“If you take the mandates from the federal government, we only have about 8 percent of the budget to work with to balance it out,” he said.

He predicted that many positions left vacant by retirement at the state level would not be filled but said some state offices couldn’t be cut.

He used the water commission as an example.

“You can not replace the people who retire in the state but that impacts what the state can do,” he said. “In times like this, we need more water commissioners, not fewer.”

He said the judicial system in Colorado is another area that can’t afford any personnel cutbacks.

One area that Taylor said he will watch close this year is the brand board, from which other state officials tried to cut funding from last year.

“That funding comes from the cattleman,” he said. “It’s their money, not the state’s.”

Another area of concern for Taylor is the recently eliminated Colorado Division of Insurance.

He said he intends to introduce a bill to re-establish that division.

“We are the only state that has no insurance division,” he said. “We need that division or we don’t have oversight of what the insurance companies are doing.”

Taylor said he also has an idea for additional funding for the promotion of tourism in Colorado — video lottery terminals.

He estimates the terminals, which will be placed at horse tracks, dog tracks and casinos in Colorado, can generate $109 million in revenue.

About 60 percent of that money will be allotted to the Colorado Tourism Board, he said, which would use the money to advertise and promote tourism in Colorado.

The machines would be a benefit for the state and

communities throughout Colorado, he said.

“The normal return on investment for every dollar spent on tourism is $50,” he said.

“That’s where the state and counties win. We need to revitalize and jump start the economy by jump starting the tourism industry. This would return substantial amounts of money to Colorado counties and municipalities.”

He stressed that the terminals would be placed only in already established gambling locations throughout the state.

“This machine involves gambling but it is not an expansion on gambling,” he said. “We will restrict where the devices can go. They will not be in our corner convenience stores.”

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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