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The budget, education and Constitution

I enjoyed very much the town hall meetings at Durango and Cortez. The questions were good and very pertinent to what is going on in Denver under the Gold Dome.

It was especially nice to be with Sen. Roberts. She is a courageous legislator and does not back down from the tough issues. She is very concerned about the fact that PERA (the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association) is underfunded by $25 billion. By comparison, Colorado’s total general fund budget is a little over $7 billion. To protect the investment of state employees and the Colorado taxpayers, we must work toward a solution that we can all live with. Senator Roberts has the intestinal fortitude to do exactly that. I support her in that regard.

The biggest concern, of course, is the budget, especially in regard to K-12 education. We must cut over $1 billion for the 2011-2012 budget. Since 41 percent of the total general fund is K-12 education, a percentage of the required reductions by Gov. Hickenlooper?is proposed to come from that source. Intertwined in the equation is Amendment 23 which requires K-12 funding to be the dollars budgeted last year, plus inflation. I don’t know how things will pan out, but I do know that every state department is going to be squeezed as we balance the budget.

Higher education has also taken some real hard budget hits. University and college budgets are being balanced in large part by increased student tuition. I am worried about our students going elsewhere for post K-12 education. Another concern is the debt that these students will owe. At both town halls, it was suggested that we use lottery funds to pay for in-state tuition scholarships for deserving students. To do so would require a constitutional change. I plan to do some research on this suggestion and would like to hear your opinions on the subject.

Speaking of the Colorado Constitution, on Friday the House passed SCR (Senate Concurrent Resolution) 11-001. This resolution will refer to the voters in 2012 a Constitutional change that will require 60-percent approval to pass a constitutional amendment. A simple majority will still be required for initiated statutory changes, and the people could take things out of the Constitution by the same percentage of votes that it took to put the measure in. I support this change to the Colorado Constitution.

When we amend the Constitution, it should be important enough that a super majority pass it. Too many times in the past, measures have gone into this sacred document by way of an emotional advertisement campaign. Currently, there are too many things in the constitution that should not be there. Issues like when and where traps and snares may be used, which personally has infringed on my right to protect my baby lambs from predators. Any referendum will also require petition signatures from all seven congressional districts. I am sure this will be a subject of much discussion in the near future.

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