Ritter promises transportation plan in state address
DENVER, Colorado ” With Colorado’s recession deepening, Gov. Bill Ritter announced Thursday he is seeking a 10 percent cut in the state budget, and he unveiled a plan that he says will fix crumbling roads and bridges while creating much-needed jobs.
Ritter says the omnibus transportation plan, called FASTER, will require Colorado to raise fees and issue bonds.
Ritter outlined the plan in his annual state of the state address at the state Capitol. It has not been introduced as a bill because lawmakers say they are still working on a compromise.
But FASTER ” or Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery ” will only provide short-term solutions, Ritter warned. He said Colorado needs a more sustainable funding plan that is fair and affordable.
Ritter told lawmakers, who began their 120-day session on Wednesday, that he has asked state agencies to prepare plans to cut 10 percent, or nearly $800 million, from the state’s current $18.6 billion operating budget. He said the cuts will be achieved in part by using emergency funds set aside for reserves.
“Families and businesses throughout Colorado are facing challenges they haven’t seen in generations,” he said in his prepared remarks. “Families are making different decisions, setting different priorities and sacrificing. Just like every family in Colorado, we’ll need to make tough choices here in the Capitol as well.”
The governor said a bill to establish a tax credit for companies that create more than 20 jobs, and reviving the Colorado Credit Reserve Program to help businesses get credit, will help Coloradans through rough economic times.
He also promised to continue promoting companies that provide renewable energy.
Ritter urged lawmakers to work together.
“One hundred years from now, I want Coloradans to look back and see this as the turning point, the point when we set aside partisan politics and worked together as Coloradans and built a New Energy Economy, a modern transportation system and the country’s best education system,” he said.
Lawmakers must cut up to $600 million from the state budget because of declining tax revenues. Democrats have indicated they will look at increased taxes and fees, while Republicans have suggested Colorado sell bonds to investors, using state buildings as collateral.
Senate President Peter Groff has said 43,000 Coloradans received $48 million in unemployment benefits in November ” and the numbers are rising. He noted there were 30,000 foreclosure filings in Colorado the first three quarters of 2007 and that half a million people now rely on food banks.