Under the Dome: The special session that wasn’t
Well, the two-day “special session” of the legislature turned out to be not so special. The call to session was so narrowly defined we couldn’t offer alternative solutions. The proposed solution was controversial, depending on how you interpret the constitution. The dollar amount was small, relative to many budget issues. I believe we can fix the issue and support the affected special districts during the next regular session. Why was the session even called?
The Gallagher Amendment, added to the Colorado Constitution in 1982, has, through the years, complicated tax collections across the state. This amendment requires statewide tax collections to maintain a balance that is 55 percent commercial and 45 percent residential. When property taxes increase faster than commercial taxes — due to increases in population, particularly in the Front Range — the legislature is required to lower residential assessment levels.
The effect is that counties and special districts reliant upon local taxes lose revenue. Colorado Mountain College has come up with an innovative solution to this dilemma that will appear on our ballots in November. I believe the measure will be a template for other taxing districts. If approved by “we, the voters,” the new measure will enable CMC to react to future Gallagher adjustments by maintaining revenues without increasing residential taxes.
My work as co-chair of the resurrected Education Leadership Council is gaining momentum. Our second meeting will be held this month in Pueblo. The objective of the council is to reach out to education establishments across the state — including public, private and nonprofit elements — to synthesize a single unifying vision that will lead the state to become a world-class 21st-century center of learning and career preparation.
I’m more convinced than ever we need to help align the hundreds of new bills every year, the 40 advocacy groups, the 178 school districts, the institutions of higher education, hundreds of nonprofits, private schools and lifelong learning toward a future that provides opportunity for all of us. At the same time, we have to honor our tradition of local control.
I’ll be back in Denver full time after the first week in November to begin hearings as a member of the Joint Budget Committee. We are looking at the usual tensions between the big three: health care, education and transportation. The growth of revenue is projected to be about $667 million, but, of course, most of the revenue growth is absorbed by mandated spending growth in case load, students and even some growth in prison population this year.
We will try to find more money for transportation. I’ll continue to advocate for Western Slope support and issues that are often quite different from those of the urbanized Front Range.
Thanks to Randy Essex and the Glenwood Post Independent for a great session Saturday. Joyce and I enjoyed sharing our views about how to stay active at any age.
State Rep. Bob Rankin represents House District 57. He writes the monthly column “Under the Dome,” hoping to inform and engage the constituents in his district. He serves on the Joint Budget Committee and represents Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
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