Commissioner Cook explains new concept bill he hopes will provide some financial help to Moffat County
The announcement of Colorado’s Clean Energy Plan, and the subsequent announcement of impending closures for Trapper Mine, Craig Station, and Colowyo will significantly impact the people and the economy of Moffat County and three other counties in the state that rely on fossil fuels.
Moffat County District 1 County Commissioner Don Cook, along with Rio Blanco County Commissioner Jeff Rector, is hoping to implement a fee on all new grid scale win and solar generated power later this year to provide financial help to counties that will allow essential services to be maintained through the adjustment period.
The bill wouldn’t be for just Moffat County, according to Commissioner Cook; it would be state-wide and would help all counties with coal-fired power plants. Those counties are Moffat, Routt, Morgan, Pueblo, and Montrose.
The proposed revenue from the fee would be placed in an enterprise fund that could only be accessed by counties that are directly impacted by the loss of assessed valuation or labor employment due to power plant or mine closures, according to the proposal letter Commissioner Cook and Commissioner Rector sent to Senators Bob Rankin and Ray Scott, as well as Representative Perry Will.
Tentatively known as the Renewable Energy Offset Fee, Commissioner Cook said the concept would have to be a late bill this year, which means its pass or fail status is controlled by the party in power.
Commissioner Cook first came up with the concept in early January after the announcement from Tri-State, stating all its coal-fired power plants would close by 2030, including Craig Station.
Commissioner Cook said that due to the timing of Tri-State’s announcement, the submission of the concept to the state legislature came after the deadline for all bill proposals. Now, Commissioner Cook, Commissioner Rector, and other county commissioners who have partnered on the bill have to wait and hope the bill passes.
“Whether we get that far or not, we don’t know,” Commissioner Cook said during Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting. “Regardless, we’re going to keep pushing until they tell us no. Whether it will pass or not, we don’t know, but we’re going to keep trying, that’s for sure.”
According to the proposal letter, the assessor of each county would report the amount of property tax lost due to closer and/or economic obsolescence for reimbursement. The Colorado Employee Residence Report (CERR) would be used to determine employment/labor loss. The funding received by the counties would first be used to replace property tax revenue loss. The distribution method of those funds may vary from county to county, but would be determined based on each affected tax entity’s mill levy.
According to Commissioner Cook, once those impacted entities are made whole, remaining funds would be allocated to support economic recovery and development. Those funds could be used to include projects such as trade schools and/or higher education offerings that would allow affected workers to gain knowledge and skills that would allow them to remain in their chosen communities.
“Our county is going to get hurt far and away the worst, so I thought if we could make it state wide with an enterprise fund, assessors could go and build a fund that would get back filled on property losses,” Commissioner Cook said. “Moffat County is going to lose roughly 12 million when all the plants close. Now, that figure won’t happen all at once, so idea was to assess tax value, and then the assessor could figure that out and build an enterprise fund.”
Commissioners Cook and Rector argued in their closing statements of the proposal letter that the benefits of acting on the proposal would be that the counties affected would be able to continue to provide essential services (Law Enforcement, Department of Human Services, Public Health, Emergency Management, etc), would fill a portion of the county’s property tax fund that the school districts would not have to backfill, and would not affect the retail consumer overall.
Commissioners Cook and Rector said that if the proposal was not acted on, the state assessed loss to the counties most greatly affected would be up to 50 percent of the tax base, and the state would have to backfill the school districts’ funding.
Now, the two commissioners wait and hope to hear something soon from the state level regarding to the Renewable Energy Offset Fee proposal.
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