A 38-year-old Colorado law allows government agencies to charge the public up to $1.25 a page for . . . public information. That is, information that belongs to . . . the public.
As Colorado Confidential noted in late January, that is more than any other state allows. This year, Sen. Andy McElhany (R-Colorado Springs) and Rep. Anne McGihan (D-Denver) introduced Senate Bill 45 to drastically slash the amount that government agencies can charge for copies, printouts or photographs.
The bill originally capped the costs at 10 cents a page – as supporters have noted, copies at Kinko’s are 7 cents a page – not $1.25, which can add up to a hefty sum for multiple copies pretty quick. Yet, after working its way through committee and, this week, the full Senate, that maximum cost has been amended after pressure from G-types, and is now capped at 25 cents per page. And that, reports the Rocky’s Peter Blake, is still not nearly enough for complaining county clerks.
“Needless to say, the county clerks are resisting the legislation,” Blake writes. “They produced a ‘simple cost analysis’ of what it costs them to make copies for the public.
“A survey of nine populous counties along the Front Range produced these figures: Average annual employee salary: $44,030. Average salary per minute: 35 cents. Average time to produce a copy: 2 minutes. Average cost of paper, toner and equipment: 24 cents.
“Thus, by the clerks’ own computations, the average cost of copying a single page: 94 cents.
“Isn’t there something wrong here?” Blake asks. “Doesn’t Kinko’s make money charging the public about 10 cents a page?
“If the county clerk’s offices claim it costs them 94 cents to photocopy one page from a public document, perhaps it’s time for the legislature to consider privatizing their various functions.”
Perhaps, these county clerks also need to be reminded that their $44,030-a-year paychecks represent money from the same public that owns the documents.
Cara DeGette is a longtime Colorado journalist and a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.