Local Lawmakers Reflect on "Challenging" Session

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - A massive budget deficit, an opportunity to redraw Congressional districts, and new leadership at the Capitol are just a few standouts from what Western Slope lawmakers are calling a "challenging" 2011 session.

Under the gold dome of the State Capitol, the past four and a half months have been marked by the word "new" -- a new man in the Governor's office, a new party in power in the House of Representatives, and the new difficult challenge of trying to balance a budget $1 billion in the hole.

"We made the hard choices that we need to make as a state and hopefully move forward as a state," said State Senator Steve King, (R) Grand Junction.

Hardest hit was K-12 education, the largest chunk of change the state spends each year. Lawmakers say they did the best they could to soften the blow.

"We got a little bit more money for K-12 education than they were expecting," said State Representative Laura Bradford. "So that was 60 million dollars we were able to give back."

While the budget was one of several key bipartisan moments during the session --

"Eighty percent of the time we are passing legislation that's bipartisan legislation and we are accomplishing things for the State of Colorado," said King.

-- a Democratic controlled Senate and a Republican controlled House meant a fair share of headbutting, bill killing, and intense debate -- particularly when it came to redistricting.

"I'm very disappointed with the results, because the opportunity was there," said State Representative Don Coram, (R) Montrose.

Coram, a Republican from Montrose, served on the committee tasked with redrawing Congressional boundaries. While Democrats accused the GOP of producing maps that favored their party, Coram says the Dems' plan to place Western Slope Counties in the same district as Boulder shows they're out of touch.

"They're hanging their whole plan on the courts," said Coram. "Hopefully the courts will listen to the people and common sense."

Though each of our elected leaders suffered other defeats, they did enjoy multiple successes, passing bills that will help local businesses and keep our schools safer.

Though they may be taking a few months off, they say this session has shown them that there's still a lot of work left to be done.

"That's what I wanted to do was set the stage for next year and that's what we've done," said State Representative Ray Scott, (R) Grand Junction.

The Western Slope delegation says next year they plan to push bills that would eliminate Government red tape for energy producers, change the makeup of the group that issues drilling permits, and pump severance tax dollars into energy impacted communities.

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