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Compromise reached on Long Bill

Colorado’s House and Senate leadership have reached a compromise on the 2011-2012 balanced budget or Long Bill.

Thanks to Republicans Jon Becker, Cheri Gerou and Kent Lambert, and Democrats Mary Hodge, Mark Ferrandino and Pat Steadman, members of the Joint Budget Committee, for months of anguish over cuts.

I give much of the credit to House Speaker Frank McNulty for standing firm the last few days and demanding that raiding fee-based cash funds and increasing taxes and fees would not be compromised.

The emergency cash fund requested by Gov. Hickenlooper and the Republicans was maintained. The agreement miraculously reduces the cuts to K-12 education by 82 million dollars. It also restores the reimbursement to vendors who collect sales tax, and it repeals last year’s software tax and the tax on products used for agriculture production. The budget also reinstates dollars for water projects.

I’m disappointed that oil and gas mineral impact money, or severance tax, was used to balance the budget. These are moneys that have historically gone back to areas impacted by oil and gas development to pay for a number of worthy projects. The 59th House District has been the beneficiary of millions of these dollars in the past. As a county commissioner, I, along with others, was successful in getting these funds back to areas that were actually impacted by the drilling and production of oil and gas. For the last several years, that money has been hijacked to balance the state’s general fund.

Senator Ellen Roberts ran a bill that would have prohibited such action, but it was quickly killed in the Senate State Affairs Committee or the “kill committee.” Representative Don Corum ran a similar bill, HB 11-1123, in the House with the difference that it did not mandate the use of severance taxes for impacted areas until 2013. I cosponsored the bill, and we got it through the House only to have it killed in the Senate by the same committee as Sen. Robert’s bill.

The Long Bill started in the Senate last week where it was amended. This week it will come to the House for debate and amendments. After the House gets through with the bill, it will go back to the Senate and will then be sent to a conference committee made up of three members of the House and three members of the Senate. Whatever that committee agrees on will be our budget. My guess is that there will be few substantive changes.

Is it everything that I would want?

No! I’m sure further study will find a lot of things I don’t like, but it is a balanced budget.

Producing a balanced budget is the only constitutional requirement of the Colorado Legislature. I wish the federal government would be required to do the same. We’ll just have to work on that.

Governmental accounting does not take into account depreciation, and the taxpayers deserve to know the true financial standing of any governmental subdivision.

More later.

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