Back from Vacation and time to re-engage. Time to sort out the issues, make a list, set some priorities, and go to work and worry. Or at least start to think seriously about a summer schedule and next year’s legislative session, which will begin all too soon for me and the rest of the Joint Budget Committee in early November.
As a well-trained ex-engineer, I should start at the top and break down my worries into buckets and then problems to be solved. It worked in a former life, why won’t it work in the political process? It seems like there’s a surprise around every corner and always somebody with a different opinion. Always exciting.
Here are my big buckets and the questions that trouble me.
Being in the minority
How many surprise contentious bills does the majority party have ready for next year? This last session was brutal. Can we continue to find agreement on issues and solve problems in arenas like health care and education? Will I get enough sleep?
The economic forecast has improved for the short term, but revenue growth is slowing. Can we maintain the level of spending that we have now committed to after two exceptional years of rapidly increasing budget?
We unanimously passed a bill to upgrade reading education and teacher preparation. We increased funding for teacher pay. What can we take on next? I’ll continue to co-chair the Education Leadership Council.
Taxes and school funding
I’m still committed to a Gallagher repeal amendment referendum to stabilize taxes for the rural areas that I represent. Will a full TABOR repeal make it to the ballot or will the TABOR revenue retention bill referred by the Legislature pass this fall? Is there any way to fix the disparity in property taxes supporting K12 schools across the state?
Cost of health care and access
We made significant bipartisan progress last year. Will the federal government approve Colorado’s reinsurance proposal? Will local cooperatives like Summit county’s Peak Alliance be an answer?
The environment and fossil fuels
With the legislation from the past session, major changes are coming to the regulation of oil and gas, and coal-powered electricity. What will be the impact on utility costs, jobs and tax returns? Can we achieve the goals of transition to renewable energy sources?
Roads and Bridges
We were able to provide increased funding during budget formulation in the last two years, and we delayed a major debate about a long-term plan until next year. How we can we fund transportation? What should be the mix of modalities, and what priorities do we assign to the many unmet needs?
I need to get re-elected so I can continue to worry.
I bet you don’t all agree on the answers to my worries, and I’m sure you have others. I’m open to expanding the list, and I can take disagreement after seven years in the Legislature. Please drop me an email.
Sen. Bob Rankin writes the monthly column “Under the Dome” hoping to inform and engage the constituents in his district and the Western Slope. He serves on the Joint Budget Committee and represents Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Grand, Jackson and Summit Counties.