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Colorado has big stake in fiscal cliff resolution

Just when we thought the election season was over, December threatens to be a slog through more of the same. November’s results were disappointing from my side of the aisle, and good friends and hardworking policymakers will be on to new pursuits in the coming year.

The election is over, though, and we continue to face monumental tasks at the state and federal level. We need solutions, sacrifice and leadership from all to move beyond our challenges. Continued failure to come up with a compromise to deal with our national deficit and debt won’t only ruin the holiday season, but threatens to ruin our nation.

One might wonder, because I’m a state, not federal, legislator, why do I care so much about this? All Americans should care deeply about the oversubscribed house of cards that we’ve built for ourselves. Also, failure to address the national finances affects my job as 25 percent of Colorado’s revenue is federal money, with plenty of strings attached. Colorado’s fiscal future is tied directly to the health of the federal government’s balance sheet.

I’ll be in Washington, D.C., this month as part of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ fiscal leaders’ forum and co-chairing the fall meeting of the budgets and revenue committee. We’ll be reminding congressional members of the consequences of their action, or inaction, about the daily lives of citizens as seen through the eyes of state legislators from both sides of the aisle.

Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet deserves recognition for working alongside Tennessee’s Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander to offer the Obama administration yet another bipartisan proposal to consider. Working across the aisle often generates more criticism than praise from one’s own party, and I admire their courage and resolve; I hope it spreads like a positive flu in the halls of Congress.

On reducing spending, unlike special interest and advocacy groups who are shouting a message of “don’t touch our perks and benefits,” NCSL’s message is: The problem is so big and real, you must touch everyone, including state legislatures’ budgets; just do it thoughtfully.

Sequestration, as a big part of the “fiscal cliff” discussion, was supposed to be the ultimate stop to delays in meaningfully addressing our fiscal house of cards. Unfortunately, once again we are down to the wire, and avoiding or delaying sequestration is the only thing anyone seems to agree on.

In addressing revenue, as the largest bipartisan organization of state legislators, NCSL advocates strongly for the passage of the federal Marketplace Fairness Act. In a nutshell, the federal bill would stop the tax avoidance that happens through Internet sales by authorizing the collection of state and local sales and use taxes from remote sellers.

The 2010 Colorado Legislature attempted this at the state level only. I voted against that bill because it was legally flawed and compliance with it put Colorado’s Department of Revenue, already holding a troublesome record on effectiveness, on steroids. The “Amazon tax” bill was struck down by the court as unconstitutionally burdensome. However, I support the passage of the federal bill as it’ll put Main Street businesses back on a level playing field with Internet retailers.

Personally, I’m looking forward to spending time with my family before the next session starts in January, and I wish all a terrific holiday season and optimism for a good year ahead.

Ellen Roberts represents Senate District 6 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district encompasses Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, Archuleta, Montrose, San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray counties. Contact Roberts by phone at (303) 866-4884, or by email ellen.roberts.senate@state.co.us.

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