Ritter: State must resolve school funding | AspenTimes.com

Ritter: State must resolve school funding

DENVER ” Gov. Bill Ritter said Tuesday he has made significant progress on renewable energy, health care and economic development during his first 100 days in office but still has to find a solution for the state’s school funding problems.

Ritter said he has also signed 172 bills, issued 96 executive orders and nominated or appointed 125 people to boards and commissions.

Ritter said he made a mistake by not engaging legislative leaders early, including on a bill he vetoed that would have made it easier to organize a union. He drew heavy fire from labor leaders for that.

“I don’t think anybody can look and say it’s been perfect,” Ritter said. He said he should have worked with lawmakers earlier on the timing and content of measures, including the labor bill.

Bob Loevy, a political science professor at Colorado College, said some people consider his decision to veto the bill a brilliant political strategy, not a mistake, because it shows he’s willing to stand up to liberal Democrats and assert his independence.

“I think he’s doing very well, particularly for a Democratic governor governing a moderate to slightly Republican state. I think the highlight was the veto of the labor bill. Even if you think he deserves responsibility for not talking to legislators, he deserves credit for vetoing a very liberal bill,” Loevy said.

Ritter said he plans to meet with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney this month to discuss his veto of the labor bill.

Republicans said Ritter had a rocky start because he is inexperienced and didn’t talk to lawmakers about his plans for the labor bill and two other proposals, to use severance taxes to increase funding for schools and to block an expected decline in property taxes to provide more money for schools.

“Legislation is artwork, and he’s still painting by the numbers,” said House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker.

Ritter disputed that and said he has met regularly with leadership, including the minority leaders.

Ritter said he has invited May to discuss May’s proposal to increase revenue from state land for school funding, but Ritter said those funds were intended to supplement school funding, not replace it.

May said Colorado earns only $8.24 per acre from land was given by the federal government to support schools, compared with $23.49 per acre in New Mexico and $37.84 per acre in Oklahoma.

May said the state could increase its revenue by better managing the land through a real estate investment trust, selling it to buy offices or using it for wind turbines and electric transmission lines.

Ritter is pushing his own plan to freeze property tax levels, which Republicans say is unacceptable because they believe it is a tax increase that would require voter approval.

Ritter said he has three weeks before the Legislature ends and he still believes a compromise can be reached.

Ritter said many of the accomplishments of the session are the result of Democrats’ seeking bipartisan compromises.

“We really believe the voters of this state wanted us to solve problems,” Ritter said.

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