Colorado senators kill severance tax measure

Sen. Roberts says gas and oil money important locally

DENVER – State senators killed a last attempt by local governments to protect their gas and oil tax money Monday.

Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, wanted her House Bill 1123 to stop the Legislature from using natural-gas and oil tax money earmarked for local governments. The Legislature has taken $266 million from various gas and oil accounts to prevent some cuts to schools and other government functions in the last three years.

“This is just so important to the energy-impacted communities for infrastructure, including our schools, our roads, our sewage treatment plants,” Roberts said.

Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, got HB 1123 through the House, but only after delaying its effect until 2013. Even that weakened version could not pass the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday, which killed it on a 3-2 party-line vote, with Democrats voting to kill the bill.

The panel’s chairman, Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, said local government accounts are not the only ones the Legislature has had to deplete to keep the budget in balance. It’s never fun, but it has been necessary, he said.

“Putting any restrictions on anybody right now as to how we use the limited cash we have in these circumstances just makes no sense to me at all,” Heath said.

Roberts had sponsored a nearly identical bill, which the same committee killed earlier this year.

The bills also would have protected savings accounts for water projects.

Hours earlier Monday, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill that takes another $85 million from local government and water accounts to keep the budget in balance.

jhanel@durango herald.com

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