STATE CAPITOL UPDATE – April 18, 2011
By Representative Randy Fischer, Colorado House District 53
Last week, the House of Representatives adopted the 2011/2012 Long Bill, the state’s budget for the next fiscal year. This was the first budget in 5 years on which I voted “NO”. I’ve written a summary for this newsletter that describes some of the key points in the budget debate. I hope you’ll take time to read it.
But first, I want to let you know of some other important news and events.
YOU’RE INVITED: COMMUNITY ISSUE FORUM
Local Efforts to Advance Sustainability
In celebration of Earth Day, please join Representative John Kefalas, Senator Bob Bacon, and me for a community issue forum about efforts to create and strengthen a sustainable local economy in Fort Collins. This event is a continuation of our monthly community issue forums. The forum will feature four panelists who have experience with local efforts to advance sustainable green building practices in commercial and residential construction, the new energy economy, and community- supported agricultural production. Following brief presentations from each panelist, we will moderate a community dialogue on this topic. I hope you will attend and please let others know about this forum.
Community Issue Forum
Local Efforts to Advance a Sustainable Fort Collins
Saturday, April 23, 2011
10:15 - 11:45 A.M.
Council Tree Library Community Room
2733 Council Tree Ave.
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Bill Franzen, Green Building Consultant, SAGE 2 & Associates
Nic Koontz, Owner/Farmer, Native Hill Farm
Dan Bihn, Renewable Energy Consultant
Sue Oberle, Horticulture Educator and Consultant, On the Vine at Richmond Farms
Representative Randy Fischer (Fort Collins HD-53)
Representative John Kefalas (Fort Collins HD-52)
Senator Bob Bacon (Fort Collins SD-14)
COMMUNITY SUPPORT NEEDED
Four PSD Teams Qualify for Odyssey of the Mind World Finals
In late March, I was privileged to hand out ribbons to the winning teams at the Poudre School District Odyssey of the Mind competition held at Fossil Ridge High School. A total of 92 teams of local 4th and 5th graders competed in this year’s local tournament. The OM program www.odysseyofthemind.com/wf2011/ encourages elementary students to learn creative problem-solving and team-building skills.
PSD recently announced that four of their OM teams earned the right to compete at the OM World Finals by placing first or second in their respective categories at the OM State tournament held in Loveland on April 9. The teams qualifying for the World Finals include Traut Core Knowledge, Shepardson and Werner Elementary, and Bennett International Baccalaureate World schools. The OM World Finals will be held on May 27 to 31 at the University of Maryland. According to the PSD website, “the World Finals give students a chance to meet young people from around the world and learn how students from other cultures solve OM problems. OM teams will come from countries around the globe, including China, India, Germany, Poland and Mexico.” http://www.psdschools.org/news/2011/03/26-odyssey-mind-teams-advance-state-tournament.
Competing in OM at the World Finals level is very expensive. Without community support, it will be difficult to for some qualified teams to participate. I’m sure these teams would appreciate your generous support. At this time, I know that the Shepardson team is raising funds to be able to compete at the World Finals. Other teams may be fundraising, but I lack specific information about their fundraising efforts. The Shepardson team competed in the Extreme Mousemobiles division. Their problem was to complete challenges using a vehicle powered only by a mousetrap. Their solution was an eight minute circus-themed show that earned them the right to represent Colorado in the World Competition.
To make a donation, please mail a check (Made to Shepardson, with “Odyssey of the Mind” on the memo line) Attn: Odyssey of the Mind, Shepardson Elementary School, 1501 Springwood Drive, Ft. Collins, CO 80525. If it is more convenient for you, staff would be happy to pick up your donation.
GOVERNOR HICKENLOOPER APPOINTS NEW CSU GOVERNORS
Congratulations to Dennis Flores and Penfield Tate on their recent appointments to the CSU Board of Governors of the Colorado State University System. Dennis E. Flores is a Pueblo insurance executive and a member of the Latino Chamber Development Corporation. Penfield W. Tate is a principal in the Denver law firm of Greenberg Traurig and serves on the Board of the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce. Both men are CSU alumni. Their terms run until December of 2014. These appointments require confirmation by the Colorado Senate.
Decisions made by the Board of Governors can have huge impacts on Fort Collins and the entire state. This important Board oversees the entire CSU system, including the Fort Collins, Pueblo, and Global campuses. The Board selects the presidents of these institutions, establishes university policies, controls the budgets, sets student enrollment levels and tuition, confers degrees, and carries out other legal functions.
2011 BUDGET SUMMARY
Last week, I voted against the state’s annual budget bill, the Long Bill, for the first time in 5 years. I applaud the hard work and responsible negotiations conducted by the Governor’s office, the Joint Budget Committee, and House and Senate leadership that resulted in the version of the Long Bill that we debated in the House last week. Ultimately, however, I voted “NO” on the total budget package because of provisions which I find unacceptable, including the following representative sampling:
• Cripples early childhood education councils;
• Cuts K-12 education by an average $400 per student;
• Reduces spending on higher education to historical low levels;
• Cuts cancer screening and treatment for low-income women;
• Guts critical child protection services;
• Reduces funding for community health centers;
• Other cuts to critical services too numerous to mention.
At the same time these cuts were being made, huge amounts of state revenue were given away to special interests or held in reserve. Most notably, the 2011/2012 budget gives away $44 million to a handful of large corporations, increases the general fund reserve over this year’s by approximately $130 million, and reinstates sales tax exemptions for business sectors singled out for special tax treatment.
During the House deliberations, more than 40 amendments were run to remedy the Long Bill’s more onerous provisions. Every one of these amendments failed on straight party-line votes.
As I wrote recently in the Coloradoan, I ran for office to support education, not to slash it. I ran to invest in the futures or children and young adults, not to foreclose on their futures. I ran to expand access to health care, not to shrink it. I ran to make our tax policy fair and equitable, not to give tax revenues away to vested special interests. The current Long Bill may be balanced financially, but it is imbalanced morally. That is why I voted “NO.”
The Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute recently published some interesting perspectives on the recently passed budget. According to CFPI, spending in the state budget next year will be $658 million below the current year, even as the state continues to grow. In the past three years funding will have declined by 3.5 percent for the Division of Child Welfare, 12.8 percent for the Division of Child Care; 12.1 percent for mental health institutions; 11.8 percent for higher education.