State finances a ‘train wreck in the making’ | AspenTimes.com

State finances a ‘train wreck in the making’

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS Colorado legislators might ask voters as soon as 2010 to fix a fiscal crisis the state constitution has created, Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff said Friday.Romanoff was a featured speaker at Healthy Mountain Communities’ fifth annual State of the Valley Symposium, held at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. He lamented that Colorado has one of the fastest-growing populations in the nation, yet faces some of the strictest spending regulations on its state government.”This is, I think, a train wreck in the making,” said Romanoff, a Democrat representing east Denver and Glendale.The Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which Colorado voters approved in 1992, restricts revenues for the state government. Meanwhile, another amendment to the constitution mandates certain levels of spending for state schools. Those two provisions provide a one-two punch that leaves the state government little room to work with its budget.Romanoff said services such as higher education and health care suffer the consequences. He teamed with former Gov. Bill Owens in a bipartisan effort in 2005 to craft Amendment C, the Colorado Economic Recovery Act. It suspended the limits on the state government revenues for five years. It was a Band-Aid, Romanoff said. The state government will face even more severe economic challenges by 2012 or 2013 if it doesn’t act.He is hopeful that there is enough support from Democrats and Republicans to place a “fiscal fix” on the ballot. Two-thirds of state House and Senate members must support the concept of placing changes to the constitution on the ballot. If so, that triggers a potential two-step process. First, voters would be asked if an amendment to the constitution could be placed on the ballot. If they answer yes, the second step would be to pop a question with specific changes to voters.The goal would be to change the revenue restrictions and spending requirements, he said. No specific language will be prepared until voters approve sending a question to the ballot.Romanoff said he wants the Legislature to ask voters in 2009 whether a constitutional amendment seeking the fiscal fix could be placed on the 2010 ballot.Scott Condon’s e-mail address isscondon@aspentimes.com