After six years on the Job as a Colorado State Representative and having just spent two intense weeks with multiple meetings every day and lots of miles on the road, Joyce and I have a renewed appreciation for the people and the issues of northwest Colorado. The goodwill and the thanks that we get are motivating rewards for our work.
I love to tell the good news. Employment is up. Tourism is at an all-time high. New businesses are starting up. The booming economy allowed the legislature to add ten percent to K12 funding, add funding for higher education, start to fix the financing of the state retirement system, transfer half a billion to transportation and set up a path forward for long-term transportation projects. Severance taxes from oil and gas are rebounding meaning more grants for infrastructure. We also passed, and I sponsored significant legislation to support developmentally disabled citizens and child welfare. Next year's forecast looks as though we can continue to catch up on education and transportation funding.
My job is to celebrate and communicate success but also to think about and work on the next problem. And my focus has been and always will be the problems and issues of western Colorado. Unfortunately, the urban/rural divide is real and complex. Resorts, small towns and rural area have their unique issues. All of us outside the I-25 corridor have some common problems, however.
The disparity in health care costs between parts of the state, primarily a result of how the state insurance commission divides the geography into regions for determining insurance premiums costs, is crippling to our region. That unfairness could be corrected by my bill to create a single geographic area like some other states.
The Gallagher amendment's reset of residential property tax will result in as much as a 23% reduction in revenue to fire districts, libraries, school districts, and counties. I requested an interim committee to find solutions but it’s an uphill fight that may pit urban interests against rural.
I went to the legislature with an intent to champion rural schools and opportunity for all of our kids no matter where in the state they live. All I've heard for six years is that we should spend more money. My experience tells me that we need to know where we are headed. I'm working as the co-chair of the
Education Leadership Council to revision what education from birth to adult retraining should be in the future. We need a vision and a strategy to overcome the shortfalls of the current system.
There are undoubtedly other issues but this summer these three are my focus.
Western slope folks are very active advocates for these and many other issues. One of the highlights of my job is working with county commissioners, municipal leaders and the wonderful volunteers on school boards, fire districts, library boards and so many other organizations. I especially appreciate Club 20 and the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, two fantastic and committed organizations that act as western extensions of state and federal government.
We have tough issues and a lot of work ahead but working together I'm optimistic that we can make significant gains during the next session.
It's a pleasure to serve you.