Ritter shoots down farm-truck bill on environmental, financial grounds

Gov. Bill Ritter Monday vetoed his first bill of the 2010 legislative session, shooting down House Bill 1101 (pdf), which would have removed the current requirement that county clerks thoroughly vet anyone seeking a farm vehicle registration.

Sponsored in the House by Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, and in the Senate by Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, the bill was meant to make it easier for farmers and ranchers to obtain cheaper farm truck registrations exempt from state emissions standards.

Gov. Bill Ritter

“In this economy many farmers and ranchers have to take second jobs outside the farm or ranch because they do not always make the majority of their income from the land itself,” Baumgardner said in previous reports. “Under my bill, an exemption would apply to registration of farm trucks and truck tractors that are used on property classified for tax purposes as agricultural land that would help preserve the family farm.”

Farmers and ranchers currently have to fill out a Colorado Department of Revenue form stating the vehicle will only be used for agricultural reasons, and clerks also can require a federal form 1040 F proving eligibility.

Ritter Monday issued a veto message saying the change to the system could lead to increased fraud and damage to the environment by exempting ineligible vehicles from emissions testing. He also explained how much he’s done to keep farmers and rancher afloat in tough economic times and to provide them with opportunity in his “New Energy Economy.” Here’s the full text of Ritter’s veto message to the legislature:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am returning to the Colorado House of Representatives House Bill 10-1101, “Concerning the registration of a vehicle used for agricultural production.” I vetoed this bill as of 2:54 p.m. today, and this letter sets forth my reasons for doing so.

As someone who grew up on a farm, I strongly value the work of Colorado’s farmers and ranchers. The agricultural industry contributes not only to the economic well-being of Colorado – which is more important now than ever before – but also to the moral fiber and long history of our state.

Since I took office, I have remained committed to ensuring that Colorado’s farmers and ranchers are able to continue working their land and that they have new opportunities to expand. I have worked hard to aid rural communities in times of distress – such as during the blizzards early on in my administration, and other hardships such as drought and freezing temperatures that have impacted many food crops across the state.

I have also made it a top priority to build a New Energy Economy here in Colorado, so that our farmers and ranchers can diversify their investments and our rural communities can benefit from the jobs that renewable energy projects bring to the state. Thanks to the help of many of our farming and ranching organizations, I have signed over fifty pieces of New Energy Economy legislation. Moreover, I made sure to preserve the majority of the existing tax credits for agriculture within my budget balancing package – despite the great economic challenges in the state.

I feel strongly that we need to preserve the integrity of our existing incentive programs for our agricultural communities. The farm truck license plate program is one program that recognizes farmers’ and ranchers’ important contributions to the state. Potential abuse of any incentives can detract from the long-term viability of these programs ¬- and I believe that this program is far too important to our farmers and ranchers to risk undermining the existing safeguards.

Under current law, individuals who wish to register a vehicle as a farm truck must certify on a Colorado Department of Revenue form, under penalty of perjury, that the vehicle will be used for agricultural purposes. In addition, issuers of farm truck license plates may also require that an individual registering a farm truck provide a federal form 1040 F as proof of eligibility. These requirements safeguard the integrity of the farm truck license plate program by ensuring that only eligible members of the agricultural community receive a farm truck license plate.

House Bill 10-1101 prohibits issuers of farm truck license plates from requiring registrants to show proof of eligibility for those agricultural license plates. The current system has worked well for decades, and I am unconvinced that there is a compelling need for a change. Indeed, by removing the program’s existing safeguards, House Bill 10 1101 would expose the agricultural license program to increased fraud in the form of illegitimate farm plate vehicle registrations and non-agricultural vehicles receiving this program’s benefits. In turn, an increase in vehicles illegitimately registered with farm plates would adversely impact vehicle registration revenues and reduce the number of vehicles required to submit to an emissions test.

In order to ensure the continued integrity of the farm truck license plate program and to protect the revenue and environment of the state of Colorado, the current requirements for registering a vehicle as a farm truck should remain unchanged.

Accordingly, I have vetoed this bill.

Bill Ritter, Jr.

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