A good week for Sen. Steve King
Legislative budget battles are often contentious, and members of the minority party can be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to obtaining funding for measures they support. So, Sen. Steve King’s initial success on two fronts this week is noteworthy, even if the appropriations for the two items are not yet finalized.
We commend King, not just for scoring victories in Denver, but because those wins are important for his constituents here in Mesa County and people around the state.
The first, outlined in Charles Ashby’s article in Friday’s edition of The Daily Sentinel, involves securing funding for a state aerial firefighting fleet, something King has been pushing for several years.
King and Senate President Morgan Carroll succeeded in attaching an amendment to the Long Bill — the state budget bill — to appropriate a little more than $20 million for firefighting aircraft. The amended version of the Long Bill still must be refined in conference committee and approved by both houses.
Carroll, a Democrat from Aurora, is a co-sponsor with King of a companion bill that would authorize the state to lease or purchase the first of those aircraft.
In other action this week, King bucked his own party leadership to keep money in a capital appropriations bill for expansion and needed maintenance at the Colorado Mesa University library, if additional revenue comes in later this year.
The project, which is planned to meet the needs of the growing CMU student population, had been stalled when the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee chose other projects out of priority to move ahead of the library.
In budget hearings this week, King worked to make $18.5 million available for expansion of the library, and another $1.1 million for needed maintenance and improvements to the library’s heating and air conditioning system, said CMU President Tim Foster. This despite the fact that the Republican minority leader of the Senate “was really leaning on King” not to support the funding, Foster said.
In both of these instances, King displayed his persistence and his ability to work with people from both sides of the aisle to accomplish his goals. In the case of the aerial firefighting fleet, he has also coupled those attributes with patience as he worked in successive legislative sessions to move his goals forward.
Last year, he could not win support for funding a firefighting fleet of airplanes. So, he instead persuaded his colleagues in the Legislature to fund a report investigating Colorado’s needs for airplanes to help suppress wildfires, and for other measures to help the state respond to fires. That report, released last Friday, recommended the state spend up to $33.6 million this year, a portion of which would go to lease or purchase aircraft designed to locate fires and help extinguish them.
Although he is term limited, and is now running for other political office, King has developed into a capable lawmaker who serves his district and this state well.