Under the Dome: Next round of budget work begins in November
I don’t know what to write about this month. Every time I get focused on a task somebody sends me a new email and off I go on another quest for truth and justice. There is certainly no lack of dragons to slay in the world of state government. And they always come back to life.
After three years of trying, Joyce and I have finally downsized from our big wonderful house that we weren’t spending enough time in to an apartment. No more sprinklers to fix or grass to mow. I do miss my tractor. We’ve been on a vacation, gone to several conferences and had lots of meetings with people we represent. Western Colorado is a big place to travel around, and we love it.
We’ll be back in our Denver apartment around the first of November to start the next round of budget work. This will be my fourth year on the Joint Budget Committee. We’ll be starting this budget with a down forecast, an increased prison population, a lot of uncertainty about the future of Medicaid, the usual request to grow state government, etc, etc. The total budget will be around 29 Billion dollars and we’ll have some intense discussions about programs that spend a lot less, like one or two million. That’s the political dimension. Some big policy decisions and lots of individual budget line items.
The health and prosperity of rural Colorado was a consistent theme in the legislature last year and will be again in the coming session. With the Front Range booming and tourism at an all-time high, saturating the resort areas both winter and summer, how can the rest of Colorado share the prosperity. Economic development efforts from the state and local levels are impressive but I still believe there are basic infrastructure needs that deter residents and businesses alike from coming to our area. We need to resolve the differences in cost of and access to health care and associated insurance costs across the state. Roads, broadband internet access, airports are all factors that drive or hinder economic activity. We did make progress last session, but I’ll be working to keep rural Colorado’s needs in the spotlight.
I was honored to be asked to co-chair, with the Lieutenant Governor, a reinvigorated Education Leadership Council. Now that she has decided to run for Governor, we’re reassessing how to move forward. I hope we can continue to do this important work.
As part of our job, we talk to people about getting involved in public service. There are so many opportunities, ranging from local school boards to committees at state and local level to elected offices. The average citizen watches national news in disgust and decides it’s all out of control. But it’s not. Our national constitution is largely based on the concept of federalism. Local and state governments are the laboratory of democracy. I always look to other states for solutions and our Colorado counties share solutions as well. If you’re tired of yelling at the television, get involved in your school district or your town or your county.
Representative 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.