Lawmakers hear budget ideas from public
DENVER – Requiring students on college scholarships to work, and giving parents cash if they send their children to private schools were among the recommendations state lawmakers heard Wednesday when they asked the public for ideas to solve the state’s budget crisis.
Former U.S. Sen. and former state Sen. Hank Brown told the Legislature’s fiscal stability committee that Colorado has a lean budget compared with other states because of tough tax and spending limits, but there are ways to make government more efficient.
He said colleges could convert direct scholarships to work-study scholarships to get jobs done that would require extra spending. Parents also could be offered $2,000 to send their children to private schools instead of public schools.
Brown said the Legislature could also eliminate the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, which he believes failed to rein in spending on higher education.
“We went through a phase in Colorado where we added a community college or a state college or a university in just about every place that had a gas station in the state of Colorado. Even the people who voted for all of those things realized we were carried away,” he said.
Brown said the lieutenant governor, whose duties no longer include presiding over the state Senate, could be given an administrative position to eliminate the $68,500 annual salary and “not spend time checking on the health of the governor every morning.”
The lieutenant governor’s occasional duties of chairing the Indian Affairs Commission is the only official service required by law.
Brown was one of several dignitaries who addressed the committee before its members took testimony from the general public.
Former Republican state Sen. Norma Anderson suggested lawmakers eliminate many of the tax breaks that were approved when the economy was booming, and she urged them to avoid trying to take money from Lottery proceeds that now go to preserve open space, warning there would be too much political opposition.
Department of Transportation Director Russ George told lawmakers Tuesday that his agency already has found ways to cut the budget by closing four rest areas on state highways.
“When money is short, you can see that’s a place that has to go,” he said.
Gov. Bill Ritter met Tuesday with legislative leaders and lawmakers to discuss the state’s budget crisis and warned that serious cutbacks are ahead.
Ritter said his administration is working with lawmakers to cut $400 million in spending. Ritter said he will release the plan Aug. 24, with the cuts going into effect Sept. 1.
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