One thing I have learned in the livestock business, and especially in the sheep business, is patience. Patience has been very helpful in the legislature. You cant make people do anything. Folks must be convinced that it is our idea, and together much can be accomplished. The legislative budget process is a place where patience really comes in handy.
After initial approval by the Colorado House of Representatives, the $7.4 billion general fund budget was amended by the Senate, promptly rejected by the House, and then sent to a conference committee. One of the sticking points was my amendment that put $13 million into Tier 2 controlled maintenance projects, which the Senate stripped out of the budget even after it passed out of the House on a 62 to 3 vote. The conference committee put $5.5 million back into controlled maintenance and the remaining $7.5 million into the Controlled Maintenance Trust Fund. I regard this as a victory for good government. My goal would be to keep current on all of the controlled maintenance projects and build the fund back up to a reasonable balance.
The house re-passed the budget, and my guess is that it is now a done deal. We balanced the budget and still maintained the Homestead Exemption for senior citizens property taxes, increased funding for K-12 and higher education, maintained a 4 percent statutory reserve, reversed the payday shift enacted in 2003 that artificially pushed payroll into the following fiscal year, and eliminated the practice of tapping severance tax cash funds or any other cash fund to pay for general fund spending. I am very happy with the budget and compliment the Joint Budget Committee on a superior job.
A great bill that will enforce government discipline on spending was passed out of the House and is on its way to the Senate. House Bill 1075 reinstates a long-standing budget cap on general fund appropriations that Democrats repealed when they had control of the legislature. The law will limit general fund appropriations to 6 percent more than the prior years expenditures. Any surplus money would go to fund transportation and capital construction projects. We must address the fact that between 45 and 50 percent of the states highways are in poor condition. HB 1075 will help. It is a great bill, but will need support by Senate Democrats if it is to survive.
The biggest complaint that I have heard about Colorado government is the late fees on vehicle registrations. Regretfully, HB 1014, which reduced the late fees from $100 to $20, was killed by Senate Democrats on the Senate Transportation Committee. We will have to try again next year.
I really do enjoy my work in the legislature and am very thankful for the opportunity to serve Southwest Colorado. It is a huge challenge, and every day I must make decisions one way or the other with good arguments on both sides. My experience on the school board, as a county commissioner, and as a businessman have helped me immensely. My principles are my guide.
J. Paul Brown represents House District 59 in Colorados General Assembly. The district encompasses San Juan, Archuleta and La Plata counties and parts of Montezuma County. Contact Rep. Brown at (303) 866-2914 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.