State leaders provide updates to GC citizens

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by Marissa Lorenz

Senator Rankin addressed BOCC

Colorado State Senator Bob Rankin visited Grand County on Tuesday with his wife and campaign manager, Joyce Rankin, who is also an elected member of the Colorado State Board of Education.

The Rankins joined Grand County Commissioners and the County manager for lunch at Maverick’s Grille in Granby. The party returned to Hot Sulphur where Senator Rankin provided a legislative update to the BOCC.

Since his appointment in 2019, Rankin, a Republican, has represented Colorado Senate District 8, including Grand, Jackson, Routt, Moffatt, Garfield, Rio Blanco, and Summit Counties. He previously served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 2012. He is a member of the Joint Budget Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee.

He began his update acknowledging that it had been “an interesting job this year, with a historically unprecedented impact to our budget.” He described how, in December, prior to the worldwide spread of COVID-19, the Budget Committee anticipated adding $890 million to the State’s general fund budget for Fiscal Year 2021, running from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, and allowing for moderate increases to education and transportation.

By the close of the 2020 legislative session, however, he notes that the Committee had cut $3.3 billion in spending from the general fund, a nearly 25 percent reduction from the $13.5 billion previously budgeted. Those cuts include about $1 billion from K12 and higher education.
Rankin recognized the challenges that the cuts will bring and warned that some of the cuts can only be made once and that coming years of reduced sales and income taxes could continue to burden the budget.

He noted particular worry for tourist-dependent small businesses. “The ski industry has deep pockets,” he noted, “and can afford to lean toward safety and good marketing. But the small businesses that depend on the slopes opening… I worry about you. I would monitor that. And I will monitor it for you to see if there’s anything we can do at the state level.”

His concern extended to decisions being made under the State’s COVID 19-related Declaration of Emergency, including decisions around how to spend $2.9 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Act monies. “The governor and staff are leaning toward measures that protect the public and not necessarily toward opening the economy.
(…) I don’t think small towns are being considered. Rural Colorado should be considered differently.”

Rankin urged, “Rural counties need to keep pressure on state government that we should
be considered differently.” He encouraged messages to keep schools in session and businesses open.

The Senator did highlight legislative successes, including bipartisan support of a five-
year renewal of the Reinsurance program and the increasing implementation of the Reading to Ensure Academic Development (READ) Act for buttressed literacy education in K12 schools.

He was asked about marijuana-related taxes, which were “sold as a fund for schools.” And he answered that this year’s budget has diverted most of those funds to the general budget, cutting about $40 million from school operating funds and about $40 million from school capital funds.

Rankin also discussed and answered questions about the Gallagher “reset,” meant to happen in 2022. He mentioned an “opportunity” on the November ballot to repeal
the Gallagher Amendment, enacted in 1982, which dictates the ratio
of taxes collected from residential and commercial property owners. The issue is of ongoing concern as a “reset” is anticipated to have significant impact to government revenues, especially for special districts like fire protection and school districts. “If it doesn’t
[pass], the rural assessment rate will drop by about 20 percent.”

He recognized that Colorado Counties, Inc., which normally lobbies on behalf of county commissioners across the state, is opposed to the Gallagher repeal. But “in defense of the repeal,” he explained that it would allow legislators to make decisions about property tax assessment rates and not have them restricted by the Gallagher mandated ratios.

The Senator concluded his time by circling back to the financial challenges facing Coloradans at this time and the importance of an open and functioning economy. “It takes a long time to get over a recession. An economic recession takes four to five years, but how different is this? It all depends on a vaccine. It depends on reopening. It depends on a state strategy… every job is going to matter in this economy.”

Speaker KC Becker meets with local Dems
Colorado Speaker of the House KC Becker appeared via Zoom on Monday for the regular July meeting of the Grand County Democrats.

She also provided a brief outline of the 2020 legislative session, her last as she reaches her term limit this year. She addressed the impact of COVID-19 on this year’s process, including the six-week legislative closure and the “hundreds of bills-in-the-works” that were terminated due to costs or controversiality.

Becker noted the challenge of cutting $3.3 billion from the state’s $12 billion budget, reducing funds to human services, Medicaid spending, capital construction, and contributions to the state pension. She reported that Colorado received about $1.6 billion from the federal government to support local government response to COVID-19, including $500 million put toward education. However, she acknowledged that about $600 million was still cut from the K12 budget and $450 million from higher education.

She indicated that legislators did pass legislation giving about $30 million to housing and rental assistance across the state and other monies towards utility assistance, low-income housing support, domestic violence support, and small business assistance. This included a $20 million small business assistance fund with CARES Act monies and $50 million more from state monies that is to be matched with private dollars.

She described Colorado’s first paid sick leave legislation, which will require all Colorado businesses to offer paid sick leave at the rate of one hour to every 30 hours of labor, up to six days a year. The sick time cannot be paid out if unused, and the requirement will be phased in later for businesses with under 15 employees. Additional legislation was passed to allow electronic notarization of documents, delayed property tax payments, and the renewal of the State’s Reinsurance program, designed to help reduce insurance rates, which are notably high in Western Colorado.

GC Democratic Chair Susan Newcomer noted the State’s bill addressing police brutality and the
“quite remarkable speed” with which it was passed. Becker recognized the bipartisan success of the bill, with 87 of the state’s 100 legislatures supporting it. “We were the first in the country to pass anti police brutality legislation,” she said. “It was pretty moving and pretty stunning. Now other states are using it as a model.”

Becker thanked the group for their support over her years as House District 13 representative, but said that she was “enjoying seeing her kids and taking time with her family.”

To follow Senator or CDE Director Rankin, go to VoteBobRankin.
com or VoteJoyceRankin.com.

For more information on the Grand County Democrats or to volunteer, go to GrandCountyDems.org.

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