State lawmakers look to avoid tax increases as Legislature convenes |

State lawmakers look to avoid tax increases as Legislature convenes

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Lawmakers and Gov. Bill Ritter tempered expectations for the legislative session that begins Wednesday, saying they won’t ask voters for tax increases to pay for long-term fixes to health care, the state’s roads and crumbling schools.

Less-expensive short-term fixes are likely, they said Tuesday.

“Most of what we can do I think can be done with existing resources. We don’t need to immediately go out and ask the citizens for more money,” said Senate President Peter Groff, D-Denver.

“We recognize the challenges that we face in these areas, and we are prepared to meet those challenges without increasing the burden on Colorado’s taxpaying citizens,” said House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker.

Ritter, in a preview for Denver civic leaders of his state of the state speech Thursday, said he won’t seek higher taxes. He said he’s waiting for committees to report to him before deciding how to proceed, but he didn’t give a timetable.

Legislators must tackle the 2008 election calendar and determine how Coloradans are going to vote this year.

Secretary of State Mike Coffman decertified two kinds of Sequoia Voting Systems electronic voting machines used in Denver and three other counties because of security flaws. He decertified equipment made by Election Systems and Software for programming errors. Optical scanning machines, made by Hart InterCivic, had an error rate of one out of every 100 votes during tests by the state.

Coffman and Colorado’s clerks and recorders are in a dispute over whether to use mail-in ballots or cast paper ballots at polling places. Coffman has urged legislators to approve software patches he says can fix some of the machines.

On health care, Groff said lawmakers can try to provide insurance for 180,000 low-income children who already qualify ” and not try to cover the other 600,000 Coloradans who don’t have insurance.

“We can’t do it in 120 days, but we can begin to put some building blocks there,” Groff said.

Last year, Ritter said he wants a health plan for all uninsured Coloradans in place by 2010.

Lawmakers said one of the first bills of the session will address crumbling public school buildings. Reports emerged last year that for decades the state didn’t inspect school construction projects.

The plan would use revenues from a 1876 federal land grant to Colorado to help fund repairs and new school construction.

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, said students can’t learn if they have to attend school in buildings that aren’t safe.

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