Ritter: Colorado has rich energy future | AspenTimes.com

Ritter: Colorado has rich energy future

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Colorado is cashing in on its rich energy future and now must figure out how to spend the severance taxes that are being generated, Gov. Bill Ritter said Thursday.

He also said the state needs to look at ways to increase the amount of severance taxes the state collects.

Ritter said Wyoming and New Mexico tax the mineral industry at about the same rate as Colorado, but Colorado provides a tax credit that is offset against the property taxes paid to local government, giving the state less revenue.

He said state lawmakers could increase severance taxes or reduce the tax credits. If lawmakers don’t act, others are willing to put a measure on the ballot to collect more money from Colorado’s booming energy economy.

“If we decide to do nothing at all, there are going to be people out there that I think will push the agenda anyway. The question becomes where you dedicate the money, and that’s also a very lively conversation. We have very significant needs around higher education funding, and we have significant needs around transportation funding, and those certainly are on the list. There are people who think we should pursue a health care agenda with severance taxes, others who say we should pursue a K-12 agenda, some who say it should be about open space and another crowd that says it should be about renewable energy,” Ritter told Colorado news editors and publishers at their annual convention in Denver.

Ritter said Colorado also has significant coal reserves and can help promote a clean coal agenda with neighboring states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.

“Most of the people who look at our energy future believe coal will be a part,” Ritter said.

Ritter said Colorado is contributing National Guard troops to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the federal government has already announced a new deployment of several hundred for the Colorado Army National Guard in March or early April. Ritter said some members of the Army National Guard are being deployed for up to 15 months.

Ritter said during a recent visit to Washington, he met with a Pentagon official to discuss complaints he heard on a visit with Colorado troops in Iraq about lengthy guard deployments.

“He acknowledged that the single biggest problem that they have right now in the military, including the Guard, is that these 15-month deployments are just too long for Army troops,” Ritter said.

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