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Federal budget: It’s time to get it done now

Each year when I come back from a legislative session in Denver, I say the same thing: There truly is no place like home, especially when home is in southwest Colorado.

Having moved to the Western Slope of Colorado 30 years ago this summer, I’m still awestruck by the beauty of what surrounds us. During the session months, flying back and forth weekly to Denver over Colorado’s mountain ranges gives me pretty spectacular views as well.

Since the end of the session in mid-May, I’ve been back out on the road in our corner. Governor Hickenlooper signed a bill of mine related to conservation easements on a ranch bordering Ouray and San Miguel counties, with Mount Sneffels providing the backdrop. Shortly after that trip, I spent several days on an educational tour following the Colorado River from its headwaters in Grand County on down to the Grand Junction area as it leaves the state. The Colorado River basin is an extremely important resource to many in the northern end of my senate district and to the state as a whole.

During June, I continued working as a member of the Colorado commission on criminal and juvenile justice (CCJJ) and I visited the Robert DeNier Youth Services Center in Durango, accompanied by former state senator Jim Dyer. The DeNier Center is a great regional resource for those young people who’ve gotten off to a wrong start in life and need the chance to turn their lives around quickly.

As in the past few years, a number of bills recommended by the CCJJ were passed this year. The commission continues to be a successful example of pulling together a wide variety of views to determine what can be done to improve Colorado’s criminal justice system, focusing on public safety while reducing the return of former inmates back to prison.

Turning to the economy, I met with a new organization of committed businesswomen in Montrose and we discussed the current business conditions in our region. While the June Colorado economic forecast indicated there’s an improvement in hopeful economic stirrings on the Front Range, the forecast reflected what we already know locally — times are still very difficult here.

As a member of the National Conference of State Legislatures task force on federal deficit reduction, I am growing impatient awaiting the success or failure of our national leaders to figure out our federal budget woes. Undoubtedly, reducing the deficit will significantly impact the states’ budgets. The sooner we know where, when and how the cuts will occur, we can plan accordingly. Unfortunately, so far, few of the deficit reduction proposals address the need to also cut the multitude of federal strings attached to the states and returning the flexibility we need in managing our states.

It’s infuriating when I hear television pundits mention the possibility of Washington kicking the can down the road further than early August in determining our nation’s next steps in dealing with the deficit.

It’s time to get it done now.

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