Romanoff, Penry spar over funds’ direction

A plan aimed at unraveling conflicting fiscal mandates in the Colorado Constitution would remove an important “external restraint on government spending,” state Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, told the fall gathering of Club 20.

During a Saturday debate with Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, Penry attacked Amendment 59 as a false trade-off.

Amendment 59 proposes to eliminate the revenue refunds mandated in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights while nixing the annual kindergarten through 12th grade education spending increases mandated in Amendment 23.

The amendment also would set aside money that would have been controlled by Amendment 23 and TABOR into a savings account that can be used for education only.

“It swaps out an old set of mandates and swaps in new (ones),” Penry said.

Romanoff, however, said when times are good and revenue to the state is abundant, the state would save money in the State Education Fund.

When revenue falls, Romanoff said, the state could dip into the fund and use it for education.

“Saving more money is a good idea, and Colorado doesn’t do enough of it,” Romanoff said, noting his measure would triple the state’s reserves.

Penry, however, argued that if Romanoff wants to set aside a new pot of money for state needs, K-12 education might not be the most needy segment of state government.

“If we’re going to create new revenue … it seems to me that transportation or higher education ought to be the focus,” Penry said.


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