Rep. Scott launches bill to promote drilling, use taxes for college tuition

DENVER ­— Rep. Ray Scott hopes to spur more oil and natural gas drilling in the state and help fund higher education at the same time.

The Grand Junction Republican introduced a bill into the Colorado Legislature on Friday that would exempt oil and gas wells permitted between July 1 and June 30, 2015, from the state’s severance tax.

After that, and for the remaining life of those wells, severance taxes generated from them would go into the state’s College Opportunity Fund, which is used to pay college tuition stipends to in-state students.

The idea is similar to Amendment 58, which nearly 60 percent of voters rejected in 2008.

That amendment was the brain-child of former Gov. Bill Ritter. It would have increased the severance tax rate and put some of that increased revenue toward college scholarships.

Even though that Democratic governor backed a similar idea, Scott doesn’t believe Democratic leaders in the House will follow suit.

Instead of being sent to the House Transportation and Energy Committee as Scott had hoped, House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, assigned it to the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

No matter which party is in charge, that’s the panel the majority party often uses to ensure the death of minority party bills they don’t like.

The point behind Scott’s HB1122 is to boost jobs and the economy and help higher education at the same time, he said.

“The oil and gas industry in Colorado is arguably the largest industry in our state,” Scott said. “They are our prime racehorse. You don’t feed your prime racehorse straw. You feed ‘em oats. You make them want to run. You make them want to go. We have to have the conversation about what we’re doing to compete with other states on oil and gas drilling.”

Ritter’s amendment was expected to raise an additional $321 million, but Scott doesn’t expect that much.

He said he has no idea how many new wells would be permitted during the two-year time-out, but if 100 are drilled, the tuition fund could see an additional $35 million annually for several years.

If that happens, it would create more jobs, which in turn would generate millions more in other tax revenue, he said.

Scott said he hopes to get support from higher education advocates, but he knows local government officials and outdoor enthusiasts won’t like it.

Under current law, half of the state’s severance taxes goes to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the other half to the Department of Local Affairs, which distributes it in the form of grants to fund water projects and local communities.

“The concept here is to create jobs, produce energy, which would help us with the recessionary problems that we’re having, and at the same time help higher ed,” Scott said.

“Each derrick’s going to create potentially 200 jobs. If we could get one extra derrick in Mesa County right now, that 200 jobs is important. If we got five, that’s a thousand jobs.”



COMMENTS

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Mr.Scott would do well to do a little research by reading publications not beholden to oil and gas.  The Oil and Gas companies are stealing the people’s resources.  The royalties they pay are pathetic and the amounts they pay for leasing are nowhere near what is owed to the taxpayers.  Increasing drill activity has a growing and concerned populace that are not just anti-fracking, they are people that live with it every day of their lives.  They are a growing number as each horizontal well drilled now, can reach out more than a mile.  Fewer individual well pads, but more well holes per pad are drilled.  Therefore, more people are touched negatively, as they watch their lives change so dramatically for money.  The severe changes to the earth and the view and the sound and the smell, and the degradation of the air is supporting a crescendo of voices yelling “STOP THE FRACKING!”  So YES, if they oil and gas companies increased their drilling, there will be more royalties.  Yes, there will be money to pay for access to “private” land.  But after they have decimated the access to the drill site and the drill site itself; after you listen to the compressors 24 hour a day for days and even weeks at a time; after you have headaches, sinus infections, rashes just to name a few symptoms; after all that did you get enough money and feel good about what you have put your neighbors through?.  So Mr. Scott you need to be more loyal to your constituents.  I can’t believe you won a second term…and I am a registered Republican.

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