Pinnacol: Battle over company’s funds rages

Slashing $300 million from the budget for Colorado’s colleges and universities would cost the state more than twice that amount in federal money, analysts say.

No strategy, however, has immediately emerged among legislators and Gov. Bill Ritter to ensure that Colorado gets the $760 million set aside for the state in the federal stimulus package.

The state Senate on Monday voted to siphon off $500 million from the state’s largest carrier of workers’ compensation insurance. The Joint Budget Committee recommended that the Legislature take $500 million from the company and use $300 million for higher education and $200 million in the general fund.

Ritter hasn’t settled on an approach, but he is talking directly to legislators “about all possibilities and options,” said his spokesman, Evan Dreyer.

The Senate vote to raid Pinnacol’s assets came despite a protest outside the Capitol against it and a warning from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office that such a raid was illegal. 

“It is all just a mess right now,” state Sen, Josh Penry, the Grand Junction Republican who leads the Senate’s minority.

Ritter’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting concluded last week that the higher-education cuts contemplated by the Joint Budget Committee and Senate would cost the state $760 million in federal stimulus money.

“Cutting this deeply will not allow Colorado to draw the federal funds because we would not meet the federally required maintenance effort,” budget chief Todd Saliman wrote to the budget committee.

A careful mix of stimulus and state money, though, might allow budget writers to keep higher education at 2008–09 levels while meeting voters’ demands for increased funding for public schools, Saliman wrote.


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