Sen. Taylor returns home with mixed success | VailDaily.com
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Sen. Taylor returns home with mixed success

Alex Miller
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS ” The Colorado legislative session that recently wrapped up was a mixed bag for State Sen. Jack Taylor, the Republican who represents Eagle County.

On the one hand, Taylor said he was glad to be on the front line of a bipartisan effort to place a question on the November ballot to address the state budget crunch.

“I signed on early for the budget fix,” Taylor said, adding that he thought there was a lot of confusion about what House Bill 1194 really does. “It’s a budget fix, not a TABOR fix.”

TABOR is the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the state’s limit on government taxing and spending blamed for many of Colorado’s budget woes. A number of municipalities have enacted legislation to reduce the law’s negative effects; Taylor said what the state Legislature did was analogous to that on a larger scale.

“All this really does is relax TABOR for five years,” Taylor said. “Without it, we’d have to continue cutting $250 million per year out of the budget at the same time we’re refunding money (under TABOR).”

With the Democrats in power for the first time in decades, Taylor said he’s always been able to “cross the aisle” to get things done.

“I started the cooperative thing when I signed on to 1194,” he said. “It was the first big issue to hit the Legislature, but it took all of January, February and most of March to get that bill through.”

Water

The most significant bill Taylor sponsored this session was Senate Bill 62, a relatively complex piece of legislation aimed at curbing the rights of those building water parks on state rivers (known as a “recreational in-stream diversion” ” or “RICD”).

At issue are recreation-oriented communities who seek to build diversions in the river to create more white water for kayakers and rafters ” especially in the summer months following peak runoff.

Taylor saw only problems, and his bill sought to place greater limitations on parks, particularly as they affected other water users.

“We would have lost water to downstream states,” he said. “The water parks are non-consumptive, but they tie up all the water by establishing a water right, junior as it may be.”

By creating a recreational water right, Taylor’s argument was that any future reservoir upstream of a park would be junior. In other words, the ability to add more storage capacity to address future droughts could be lessened, because the water rights of the new reservoir would be trumped by those of the park.

“It won’t affect the senior rights above the parks, but if you look at a town like Oak Creek, Steamboat gets a RICD and Oak Creeks needs water later, their water right is junior to Steamboat’s,” Taylor said.

“Steamboat can just say ‘sorry.'”

Democrat Gary Lindstrom, who represents Eagle County in the state House, worked hard to defeat Taylor’s bill. In his opinion, the parks represented “non-consumptive” use unlikely to impact the overall picture. But Taylor saw the issue as part of a larger problem.

“There was a lot of discussion in the heat of the drought about the need to build more storage capacity,” he said. “But if a RICD controls the water above, what’s the point in building a new reservoir if there’s no water to fill it?”

Senate Bill 62 was killed in the House; Taylor said he wasn’t sure if he’d reintroduce it but said water issues will continue to loom large for the state.

“The lower-basin states are nipping at our heels all the time,” he said.

Gas clean-ups

One other bill Taylor said he was pleased to help pass concerns the trust fund used to clean up petroleum storage tanks in the state. The program has been in place for some time, but Taylor said the new legislation ensures the continuation of the trust fund while also protecting it from the state.

“The joint budget committee was raiding the money,” he said. “The state took $4 million out of the account, and I argued that the money didn’t belong to the state.”

Calling it the best program of its kind in the country, Taylor said the Colorado Petroleum Storage Tank Fund has provided for the clean-up of some 4,500 leaky sites, mostly from gas stations. How it works is every time a gas station receives a fuel delivery, they pay into the fund, which gathers about $18 million annually.

“It supports good environment,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t get a lot of attention, but the trust fund helps clean up 300-400 leaky sites every year.”

Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or amiller@vaildaily.com.

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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