Backing of Amendment 58 puts Mesa State trustees in a bind

Board realizes endorsement could upset energy industry,

The Mesa State College Board of Trustees on Friday endorsed a measure that would send energy taxes to scholarships, then immediately acknowledged it would have to mend fences with energy companies that opposed the measure, Amendment 58, on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The trustees said they had work to do with Gov. Bill Ritter, who supported Amendment 58, to encourage him to direct more money into the colleges on the Western Slope, which is the epicenter of the current energy boom.

Board Chairman Charlie Monfort said he had spoken with Ritter before the vote, and, “He recognized the fact that we are struggling with this.”

The travails of the board began last week, when trustees put off a final vote on Amendment 58 to allow themselves to speak with people on either side of the issue.

Trustee Lena Elliott said she had spoken with energy company representatives about the difficulty of the college’s position on 58.

“I feel good about where we are,” Elliott said.

“We are thrilled to have unanimous support for Amendment 58 at Mesa State,” said George Merritt, spokesman for A Smarter Colorado, which supports the measure. “Coloradans across the state clearly see that by ending our $300 million subsidy for an industry that does not need it, we can make a real difference for families in Colorado.”

Industry officials were disappointed with the vote, said Kathy Hall of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

“I know that colleges are under tremendous pressure to support 58,” Hall said.

Western Colorado, though, will suffer because the measure would take away money that would help communities deal with the effects of energy development, she said.

Supporting the measure could give the college more heft in dealing with the way scholarship money is distributed should it pass, trustees said.

Officials have yet to settle on a distribution formula for the $321 million in new revenues that Amendment 58 would pump into state coffers.

A preliminary distribution formula for the Colorado Promise Scholarship program would establish a matrix that would direct more money to Colorado’ research universities than to its four-year schools and community colleges.

“We have to continue to lobby for what would be fair and equitable,” Monfort said.

The matrix also would establish three income categories for recipients and set aside different amounts of money for them depending on their family income and the kind of institution they attend.


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