White wants tax compromise with energy sector

Colorado State Rep.  Al White speaks.

Voters struck dead an attempt to raise the state’s tax on natural gas and oil, but one Western Slope Republican wants to take a second crack at an energy tax increase.

Sen.-elect Al White, R-Hayden, said he plans to push a “son of 58” ballot question during the 2009 legislative session with the energy industry at the table.

“I’m going to start talking to members of the industry to start work on something that hopefully they can live with and that we, as a state, can benefit from,” White said.

Amendment 58, which the energy industry fought in a multimillion-dollar campaign, would have eliminated a property tax credit for energy companies and used the money to underwrite college scholarships. Voters rejected the measure by a margin of more than 350,000 votes.

White said he is unsure how he would raise taxes on the industry, but he wants to try to work out a compromise with the energy industry.

State Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, said she was happy to hear White, too, is interested in pushing for severance tax reform at the Capitol. She said if White can get the energy industry on board, it could head off a high-stakes, high-dollar political dogfight ahead of the 2009 or 2010 elections.

Coloradans for a Stable Economy reported spending more than $10.8 million during the 2008 election cycle to defeat Amendment 58, according to financial disclosures on file with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

Industry advocates said even though they would be open to a dialogue, the voters decisively rejected the concept of a severance tax increase.

Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, said lawmakers indicated earlier this year
they wanted to have a dialogue with the industry about taxes, but no talks ever materialized.

“I’d just reiterate that no business, whether it be the oil and gas business or any other business, is prone to sit around and dream up ways to raise its taxes,” Dempsey said.

Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said the viability of any severance tax proposal depends on how Gov. Bill Ritter handles the legislative review of new oil and gas regulations expected out in December.

“If the rule-making issue is settled in a responsible way,” Penry said, “it is a conversation that could be had next year.”


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