A severance tax hike proposal is certain to be on the 2008 ballot. How the monies are divvied up and who gets a piece of the action should voters pass the measure are still to be ascertained.Whether state officials were ready or not, two special interest groups have proposed their own measures to raise the taxes energy companies pay on the extraction of irreplaceable energy resources such as natural gas and coal.
The Colorado Environmental Coalition, a consortium of environmental organizations, wants to target the extra severance tax revenues to renewable energy projects and wildlife habitat. The Donnell-Kay Foundation, an organization involved with education issues, believes more funds need to go to higher education. In all, the two entities suggest that an estimated $200 to $300 million dollars a year could be added to state coffers.
Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, has been working on a severance tax-hike ballot measure to introduce during this legislative session. “We will be in discussion with the environmental and higher education groups about the language of the bill.”
The governor’s office has also been active in the severance tax discussion. Governor spokesperson Evan Dryer, explained:
Gov. Ritter has, is and will continue to lead discussions about this issue. He will keep asking questions like:
— Does it make sense to continue a decades-old tax credit that benefits the oil-and-gas industry?
— Is the industry, which is experiencing an unprecedented boom, providing its fair share back to the state, especially when compared with other states?
— Are we taking care of our most impacted communities?
The discussions are under way in earnest and they will continue as such over the next few weeks and months.
In Ritter’s travels over the Western Slope last year, local government leaders pressed the governor to send more funds back to their energy-impacted communities.
“When I became mayor five years ago, our current wastewater plant was supposed to last another 12 years or so but because of the oil and gas boom, we are having to expand the plant now,” Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert said.
House Speaker Andrew Romanoff said that the environmental and higher education proposals have merit and the state needs to set aside funds for a rainy day. “But we want to make sure local cities get first dibs so they can keep up with their infrastructure needs.”