Vail Valley lawmakers fight for tourism funds
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” Sen. Al White and Rep. Christine Scanlan, who represent Colorado’s Vail Valley, want to make sure $20 million dedicated to tourism marketing isn’t part of the cuts expected to shred Colorado’s budget.
Gov. Bill Ritter said Thursday steep cuts will have to be made from a state budget economists projected could be more than $600 million short by June ” the end of the fiscal year.
“The last thing I think we want to do is cut spending that actually brings the state additional dollars,” said White, a Republican.
Both lawmakers acknowledge saving all the money could be difficult.
“We’re strongly advocating to keep those,” said Scanlan, a Democrat who lives in Summit County. “I think anything is a possible target, there is a lot of competing interest down here.”
Every dollar spent on tourism marketing has been shown to return at least six, White said.
“It doesn’t make any sense to cut tourism by $10 million if by spending that we get $60 million,” White said.
Trying to recruit tourists to the Vail Valley and the High Country is particularly important now, Scanlan said.
“Its great that we’re having the snow year we’re having,” she said. “But anything we can do to keep tourism flowing is tremendous.”
Balancing the budget ” which White said is already tight ” is the Eagle County senator’s top priority.
White, a member of the joint budget committee, said the governor has indicated $250 million in cuts might need to be made.
“Finding that much worth of cuts is not easy,” White said. “Where do you take that money halfway through the session?”
The governor is supposed to submit a recommendation for cuts to the budget committee next week, White said. The recommendations will be made by department heads.
“There may be some programs they feel are less effective than others,” he said. “There’s nothing that I would say ‘this is a total waste.'”
White said the governor is also considering using some reserve money to help make up for the decrease in revenue.
“Most people don’t realize the constitution only mandates one bill be passed every year of every legislative session ” a balanced budget,” White said. “Nothing is more significant than our ability to balance our budget, that’s definitely what is taking my mental energy.”
In addition to fighting for tourism dollars, Scanlan is trying get money to help Eagle, Summit and Lake counties deal with beetlekilled wood and prevent wildfires.
Scanlan is eyeing severance tax money for use in wildfire prevention efforts, but is trying to figure out how much might be available. Severance tax is a tax on non-renewable resources that are removed from the earth, such as oil and gas.
“None of our revenue projections are what we hoped they would be,” she said.
The money, which could be as much as $5 million, would be available to communities to do “appropriate planning for wildfires.”
But a portion of the severance tax money is already spoken for and getting some of what’s left could be tough, Scanlan said.
“Because it’s money that isn’t already restricted, we’ll have to fight hard to keep it,” she said.
Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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