Ritter: Tax increase may be needed | AspenTimes.com

Ritter: Tax increase may be needed

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Gov. Bill Ritter said Thursday he may ask voters to approve a tax increase next year for one of Colorado’s big needs, but he’s not sure yet which one it would be.

Ritter said higher education, transportation and health care all need more funding but he hasn’t determined which need is most pressing.

“I think it has to be about one thing, and we have to decide what that priority is,” he told the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, which sets state spending priorities.

“I don’t think we can put the three things ” higher education, transportation, health care ” on the ballot,” he said. “I think that’s unfair to the voters, I think it would demonstrate a lack of leadership on my part and on the part of the Legislature.”

Ritter said he has committees studying the issues and will wait for their recommendations before he decides.

The governor also defended his executive order granting the 49,000 state government employees the right to join unions.

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Ritter said the decision won’t increase the budget and won’t take away the power of lawmakers to set the budget.

Sen. Steve Johnson, a Fort Collins Republican and a budget committee member, told Ritter the state has done well by its employees, offering one of the most generous pay packages in the country.

Ritter’s budget director, Todd Saliman, said Ritter held back on recommendations to increase the state’s share of health, life and dental insurance for state workers so he could put more money in achievement pay that would cover all state employees.

Ritter went before the budget committee to discuss his estimated $18 billion spending plan, which would take effect July 1. He is proposing a $900 million increase in total state funding.

His plan recommends a $7.5 billion general fund appropriation, a 6 percent increase from this year’s $7.1 billion and the maximum increase allowed by the state constitution.

It includes money to replace 537 state fleet vehicles with hybrids and $2 million for rebate and incentive programs to encourage people to install solar panels.

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