Ritter: Road, energy funds top Colorado’s wish list
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Money to maintain Colorado’s roads and bridges and boost the state’s emerging alternative-energy industry are atop Gov. Bill Ritter’s wish list for President-elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package.
Ritter was among the governors who met with Obama in Philadelphia on Tuesday and offered suggestions after Obama pledged to help their ailing economies.
Ritter said he hasn’t discussed a job in the administration with Obama’s transition team and didn’t get to speak to Obama because of time limitations.
“I had my hand up the whole time,” Ritter said. “Other governors spoke, and quite frankly, they addressed the issues I would’ve addressed.”
For Ritter, that means investing in Colorado’s transportation infrastructure, which he said will create jobs.
“That would be my first pitch,” Ritter said.
He said federal highway funds are dropping, with an expected shortfall of $300 million next year. Colorado legislators adjourned in May without coming up with a plan for transportation funding.
“We need that money, quite frankly, to just maintain the bridges in the state and to do road maintenance just around safety,” Ritter said.
He also said the state could use money to push what he calls the new energy economy, and create jobs doing it.
“We are poised to benefit from a stimulus package that creates jobs by creating a different energy policy,” he said.
Ritter has put renewable energy at the forefront of his administration during his first two years in office, promoting wind and solar energy projects.
He said Colorado could use federal help because revenue from sales taxes and capital gains taxes is declining. He said the corporate income tax revenues are also declining.
Ritter has imposed a hiring freeze and halted capital construction projects as income falls. He said officials will determine whether other cuts are warranted when the state’s planning and budgeting office presents its quarterly revenue and economic forecast on Dec. 20 and after November unemployment figures are released.
“If our personal income and the revenue from personal income tax were to remain strong, then it would buffer us from the worst part of the downturn,” Ritter said.
Colorado’s October unemployment rate jumped one-half percentage point to 5.7 percent, state labor officials said last week. That’s the highest rate since March 2004.
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