Fiscal stability commission offers up bills

The Long-Term Fiscal Stability Commission, which has been meeting through the summer, voted to support the following bills this week:

• Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, will sponsor the High Education Flexibility bill. Higher education has 100 percent of the requirements of any state department but the state is unable to fund 100 percent of those requirements. This bill provides higher education with some flexibility by exempting them from some of the requirements, even if only temporarily to weather this current fiscal crisis. The bill includes, but is not limited to

— Student aid flexibility
— IT flexibility
— Capital Construction flexibility
— Flexibility regarding international students
— Accountability: allowing audited financial statements to replace bureaucratic forms

• Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, chair of the Long-Term Fiscal Stability Commission, is sponsoring the resolution to request a tax study. This resolution requests the University of Denver to study Colorado’s tax structure to determine if it’s fair and equitable. This is the first time Colorado has taken a look at its tax structure in 50 years. The study will come back to the General Assembly in 2011 with suggestions and recommendations.

• Sen. Heath is also sponsoring the resolution to establish a commission to consider constitutional reform. This resolution will establish a commission to look into Colorado’s fiscal constitutional provisions to make sure they are working together and in the best interest of all Coloradans and refer measures to the voters in 2012.

• Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, wants to create a Rainy Day Fund that will eventually grow to 15 percent over time. The Rainy Day Fund will extend the provisions of Morse’s Senate Bill 09-228, which established a rainy day fund once personal income grows above 5 percent and allows the fund to grow to 6.5 percent. This bill also gives the Governor the authority to take either 2 percent or one third of the reserve if he needs to use the Rainy Day Funds. (Currently, the Governor has the authority to take up to half of the reserve).

• Rep. Mark Ferrandino, vice-chair of the Long-Term Fiscal Stability Commission and member of the Joint Budget Committee, is sponsoring a bill to increase and encourage public and private partnerships. This bill allows non-profit organizations to submit proposals to state agencies if they would like to take over certain parts of state government. Other organizations would be able to compete and the proposals require that no state employees will lose their jobs.

“As a group we recognized in our first session that Colorado has a problem,” said Heath. “We set a goal for ourselves to determine what kind of Colorado we want, how much it would cost, and how to fund those priorities in the long-term. The bills that we supported take us closer to achieving these goals. I feel really good about what we have accomplished.”

Morse, of Colorado Springs, said, “Last week’s budget cut announcement shows we need a long-term solution for how to support our higher education system. The future of our children’s education and our state’s economy depends on the survival of our higher education system.” ?

“We need a 21st century tax structure for our 21st century needs,” said Court of Denver.

“We’ve come together to develop bi-partisan and creative solutions for Colorado’s most difficult challenges so that Colorado is ready to lead the country into the 21st century,” said Ferrandino, D-Denver.

“We hope that our report will become a starting point for a statewide discussion focused on untangling the fiscal knot and building a modern system of government finance."