Commissioners wary of Sen. White’s recent positions
Not all politicians are immune to the confusion and angst local residents demonstrated on tax day in Moffat County.
The country is spinning into debt, the state is trying to hold on, and it’s hard to keep everything straight, Moffat County Commissioners Tom Mathers and Tom Gray said.
In the midst of it all, they are uneasy about some of the recent decisions made by state Sen. Al White, R-Hayden.
“It seems (state Rep. Randy) Baumgardner is keeping with our philosophies, and Al might be flipping,” Mathers said at the commission’s meeting Tuesday.
The senator defended himself, saying many of his recent decisions have been necessary compromises, particularly regarding the state budget passed last week.
“It’s certainly disappointing to me that people would try and second-guess or take cheap shots at what we did, or what I did, without being involved in the whole process,” White said.
The Legislature recently cut $300 million from its budget because of a revenue shortfall.
As a member of the Joint Budget Committee, White was a central part of writing which cuts would be made.
Gray said Tuesday he understood that state legislators have to compromise and support legislation they may not believe in to pass things they want.
“But, there’s a difference between supporting something and sponsoring it,” he said.
Gray said he was disappointed to see White’s name at the top of a bill to take $500 million from Pinnacol Assurance, a semi-private company, to cover the government’s deficit and add to its reserves.
Pinnacol is the state’s largest workman’s compensation insurance provider.
“Those were ratepayers’ monies not tax monies,” Gray said.
He added he doesn’t want to be too critical of White’s position, however, because he doesn’t know the ins and outs of the state budget, which he said is very complex.
It’s understandable that people would somewhat be lost when dealing with such a big and fluid piece of legislation as the state budget, White said.
The Pinnacol proposal was floated to the Legislature as a way to avoid cutting $300 million from publicly funded higher education, he said.
Both were part of the system of compromises that lawmakers must struggle with to get anything done, the senator added.
“There was a lot of political strategizing that went into the budget this year,” White said. “Honestly, if we hadn’t put those two bad choices on the table, I don’t think we’d ever get the votes in the Legislature to make the cuts we had to,” such as cutting roughly 4 percent from state Medicaid reimbursements.
White said he disapproved of “a lot” of the final budget that the Legislature passed, but he voted for it because he is on the Joint Budget Committee. That position dictates that he support the compromise created by him and his colleagues.
In particular, White said he strongly opposed taking money from Colorado Department of Local Affairs energy impact grants. The fund normally is reserved for Western Slope communities like Moffat County to use for local infrastructure.
“As members of the committee, we end up voting against a lot of things that end up in the final bill,” White said. “There have to be compromises or else we’d never get a budget.”
Mathers also was disturbed to see White shift from opposing to supporting Senate Bill 85, which at one time sought to eliminate business personal property taxes by 2027.
Compromise changed that bill, too, however. It no longer proposes to eliminate business personal property tax but create a panel to study if the tax should be eliminated.
White voted for the bill Thursday, which passed the Senate 34-1 and now goes to the House.
Despite their reservations, however, Mathers and Gray said they trust White to do his best for Northwest Colorado.
“Al is a good friend, and he’s always tried to do what’s best for us up here,” Mathers said, adding he’s amazed that White can please as many as he does. “Just the difference in opinion between Moffat and Routt County is amazing.”
“I’m glad we have Al White instead of someone else,” Gray said.
Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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