Ritter to cut $50M more to balance ‘09-‘10 budget

The same day Gov. Bill Ritter announced more cuts in state services, a legislative panel considered a flurry of bills that would eliminate or suspend several tax exemptions.

Ritter said Wednesday another projected decrease in tax revenue and an unexpected increase in Medicaid cases are largely the reasons why he needed to trim spending by another $50 million on top of the $2 billion he and the Colorado Legislature have had to cut over the past two years.

Part of that budget-balancing package includes 10 measures the Legislature is considering that would raise about $300 million over the next three years. Those measures would eliminate or temporarily suspend tax exemptions on just about everything from candy to computer software to bull semen.

“This is actually the fifth time we’ve had to rebalance the 2009-10 fiscal year budget,” Ritter said. “Colorado has 100 different tax credits and exemptions worth $2 billion. I’m proposing suspending just 13 of those. These changes are about 1 percent of the balancing plan.”

Ritter and other legislative Democrats said they rejected ideas to eliminate sales tax exemptions on groceries and medicine and income tax credits to out-of-state companies that move to Colorado.

The 13-member House Appropriations Committee passed them all on 8-5 party-line votes, with the minority Republicans trying with no success to get Democrats to stop them in their tracks.

Both sides clashed over the bills. Democrats accused Republicans of spending more time criticizing the measures without coming up with ideas of their own; Republicans said the Ritter-backed bills would rob businesses, and that would lead to more layoffs.

“You’ve had a lot of time to come up with suggestions for cuts we could make, and I haven’t seen any,” Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, said.

“When you take dollars out of the private sector and put them into government, it will have an impact on the private sector,” Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton, countered.

Pommer said the bills need to get through the Legislature and signed by the governor before March 1 because part of Ritter’s budget-balancing plan counts on about $18 million from the exemptions for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Ritter’s plan also calls for transferring another $4.8 million in severance tax money and $4.3 million in federal mineral lease revenues that normally would be distributed to local governments.

Several protesters are expected to demonstrate in front of the Capitol building today to oppose the bill.


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