King makes final push for firefighting fleet

DENVER — Sen. Steve King made one last call to the Colorado Legislature and its governor Thursday to come up with some money for his idea to create a firefighting air fleet.

The Grand Junction Republican, whose bill won final approval in the Colorado Senate on Thursday but with no money, said he perused the state budget late Wednesday to see which department has a vested interest in protecting the state’s lands and its people, finding several.

While the start-up costs to SB245, which calls for the state purchasing its own slurry planes to battle wildfires and hiring pilots to fly them, are estimated at $17 million, King said he doesn’t really need that much to get the idea off the ground.

“The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is responsible for protecting and improving the health of the people of Colorado and ensuring the quality of Colorado’s environment,” King said. “Their budget is $468,215,998 a year. Give me $3 million.

“The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for developing, protecting, enhancing Colorado’s natural resources,” he added. “Their budget is $262,770,961 a year. Give me $3 million.”

The measure now heads to the House for more debate.

There, House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, agreed with Senate Democrats that while the idea has merit, not enough is known about how it should work to throw money at it.

“I think it’s worth the investigation to see if this makes sense for Colorado,” Ferrandino said. “But when we’re doing long-term obligations ... I think there needs to be more study by the departments to figure out how to do that.”

In other matters, the House Finance Committee approved a measure Thursday that would place on this fall’s ballot two proposed new taxes on the recreational sale of marijuana.

The taxes stem from last year’s voter approval of Amendment 64 that legalized the recreational use of the weed, including allowing for the establishment of retail shops to sell it.

The measure, HB1318, would allow for sales and excise taxes on all marijuana sales of up to 30 percent combined. If approved by voters, it could raise as much as $70 million a year in additional revenue to the state. That amount, however, doesn’t include any revenue local governments also can earn from local sales of pot.


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