DENVER - Lawmakers are trying to shield the state engineer from budget cuts by sending gas and oil tax money to his
Gov. Bill Ritter has asked each state department for
10 percent cuts, and because the state engineer's office is one of the only parts of the Department of Natural
Resources that uses general tax dollars, it will suffer the brunt of the budget crisis.
Ritter's budget calls for 20 fewer positions in the 270-person division next year.
House Bill 1006, by Rep. Kathleen Curry, I-Gunnison, puts the engineer's office in line for $413,000 from gas and oil
taxes. Right now, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has the money to study how gas drilling affects wild animals.
By moving the money, the engineer's office can restore the equivalent of 5.3 jobs, including some water commissioners.
The commissioners, more commonly known as ditch riders, police the use of water in the field and make sure senior
water-rights owners get their water.
These are really good people doing really tough jobs for really very little pay," said Jack Byers of the Colorado
Water Congress, which supports the bill.
Curry's bill won't solve the long-term problem with the engineer's office budget, but it will keep water commissioners
working this year, she said. Lawmakers attempted to raise well permit fees to fund the division last year, but the bill
Her bill passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee 8-4 on Tuesday. Representatives who voted no"
were upset the engineer's office didn't send anyone to testify about how much money the office needs, and the Division
of Wildlife did not answer questions about its use of gas and oil tax money. Several longtime critics of the DOW sit on
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, voted no, despite his desire to keep water commissioners on the payroll.
I'm supportive of that, but I'm not going to vote for something I'm not given full information on," Tipton said.