Romanoff vows to spend new funds wisely | AspenTimes.com

Romanoff vows to spend new funds wisely

While immigration is important, House Speaker Andrew Romanoff said the issues that Coloradans are “losing sleep over” include health care, education and the economy.The 39-year-old Democrat from Denver indicated his personal focus when the Legislature convenes next month will be wise investment of the estimated $3.7 billion in extra revenues that taxpayers are allowing the state government to keep over the next five years. Without voter approval of Referendum C in November, those funds would have been refunded to taxpayers.Romanoff said he wants to: Bolster the state economy by improving education. He said Colorado needs to use revenues from Referendum C to contribute more in higher education and to early education. Research shows those investments pay off; a strong education system attracts good employers and good jobs.Colorado recently ranked 48th among states in financial support for higher education by contributing $2,400 annually per student. He wants that boosted to at least $2,600.Investment in early education pays dividends by keeping students engaged in schools, he said. Allocate more dollars to building infrastructure and developing alternative energy. Romanoff claimed the limits placed on state spending over the last several years took their toll on spending on roads and bridges. Projects were deferred, so now the state needs to shift more resources to take care of the backlog. He also wants to promote long-term economic health for the state by leading research and development of alternative energy sources. Overhaul the state’s role in paying for medical care. He wants to keep more people on private insurance programs rather than seeing them rely on state-supported Medicaid. That might mean assisting small businesses in acquiring affordable insurance plans. He wants the state to help ensure that every child receives adequate medical care, regardless of financial means, by 2010. He also supports Colorado’s participation in a consortium of western states that pool efforts to buy prescription drugs and make them affordable.Romanoff vowed that the Legislature will remain fiscally responsible despite the passage of Referendum C. He supports a movement to make state agencies overhaul their way of doing business by assessing where they are now, where they want to be in 10 or so years, then developing a plan to get there.The state’s receipt of additional revenues doesn’t entitle agencies to a windfall. “We’re not going to embark on some wild-eyed spending spree,” Romanoff declared.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.