Gov. Ritter Asked to Form Severance Tax Committee

There has been a myriad of proposals to change the process to disbursement of state severance taxes and federal mineral lease funds in the legislature this year. In response, Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village proposed convening a special legislative committee to study how mineral severance tax dollars are collected, allocated and spent.

Some officials on the Western Slope would prefer that Governor Ritter form a “Blue Ribbon” committee instead to study the mineral tax distribution formulas. Associated Government of Northwest Colorado director, Aron Diaz, has sent a letter proposing this request to the governor.

“I am confident that this could be the beginning of a constructive dialogue that would produce mutually beneficial outcomes for the state budget and NW Colorado’s local government,” Diaz said in a press release. “It is our hope that we can produce a positive and proactive committee…that will go beyond looking for schemes that further carve up the current distribution system.”

Diaz noted that he has had to defend against several legislative proposals that diverted severance tax and federal lease funds away from energy impacted communities. Therefore, a committee formed by Ritter may be more balanced. AGNC represents a five county area that includes Mesa, Garfield, Routt, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties, towns and cities.

Club 20 is purported to be writing a similar letter to the governor.

According to AGNC, there are concerns that local NW governments are overshadowed in the current distribution process. “We have a lot of projects that are being paid for up-front by these funds to ensure that we don’t burden our citizens with the cost of these energy development impacts,” said Meeker Mayor, Steve Loshbaugh. He felt a Blue Ribbon committee would be an excellent way to educate others in the state about the impacts of energy development on local communities.

Last week, Department of Local Affairs Executive Director, Susan Kirkpatrick met with AGNC officials on severance tax issues. Diaz hopes that other regional partners, such as Club 20, will have an opportunity to participate in the discussion.

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