Senators are hoping they will win Owens’ support for new budget proposal |

Senators are hoping they will win Owens’ support for new budget proposal

DENVER – State senators are trying to win the governor’s support for a budget fix that would give voters more say over how long the state would be able to hold on to extra tax money.The proposed bipartisan deal would ask voters to raise the state’s spending limits by about $840 million for at least five years.Over those five years the state would get to keep an estimated $3.1 billion that it would normally have to refund under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Voters would be asked again after five years whether they wanted to continue letting the state keep that money.Unlike the plan approved by the House Thursday, the Senate proposal wouldn’t include a cut in the tax rate because some senators believe it confuses the proposal.The House plan allows the state to keep either $8.3 billion over a decade, according to legislative economists, or $13.2 billion, according to Gov. Bill Owens.Democrats control both the House and Senate for the first time in over 40 years and they don’t have to get the support of the governor to send a question to the ballot this fall asking voters for more money. However, party leaders see solving the budget crisis as their top job this session and think that Owens’ approval is key to convincing voters to back a budget fix.Lawmakers say they are caught between the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which limits taxes and spending, and Amendment 23, which requires annual increases in public school spending. The lack of a long-term solution will force lawmakers to cut $234 million from the budget beginning July 1 while at the same time mailing refund checks to taxpayers.United jet targeted with possible laser beamDENVER – The FBI said Friday it was investigating the possibility that a United Airlines flight that left Denver the previous night was targeted with a laser beam.The pilot of Flight 423, a Boeing 777 that took off from Denver International Airport on Thursday evening and landed safely in San Francisco, reported seeing a green light in the cockpit that he thought could have been a laser, FBI spokesman Carl Schlaff said.Under a Federal Aviation Administration policy, the pilot was required to report the sighting to the control tower.Schlaff said the pilot thought the beam might have come from a new residential development at the old Stapleton International Airport site in northern Denver. Investigators, however, were unable to determine the exact location, he said.Since November, several dozen similar incidents have been reported around the country, including several in Colorado. A Flight For Life helicopter was targeted in Summit County late last week, and local prosecutors were considering charges against a 22-year-old Edwardsville, Ill., man, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said Thursday.The federal government has warned that terrorists might use lasers to blind pilots, and an FAA study concluded lasers could cause a crash. Authorities have said no links to terrorism were found in any of the rash of such incidents.Crashes back up traffic on I-25BERTHOUD – All lanes on Interstate 25 were closed for about 40 minutes Friday afternoon near the Berthoud exit after a southbound semitrailer apparently crossed the median and struck some northbound vehicles, authorities said.One person was airlifted to a hospital, State Patrol Trooper Eric Wynn said. Other details weren’t immediately available, but a dispatcher said the initial report was that the semitrailer struck three vehicles.That crash sparked at least one other multi-vehicle accident, Wynn said. No injuries were immediately reported.Traffic in southbound lanes was backed up about seven miles before lanes were reopened, Wynn said. No estimate was available for northbound lanes.Investigators were still trying to determine details of the crash, including what caused the semitrailer driver to cross the median.A look at work in the Legislature Friday– The House Appropriations Committee backed House Bill 1152 that would set up a clearinghouse for information about drug discounts provided by pharmaceutical companies. However, because the state doesn’t have money for new programs, the clearinghouse could only be set up by donations to the state. State Rep. Jerry Frangas, D-Denver, said he is working with pharmaceutical companies to give the money because it will help them gain more customers and improve their public image.– Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, met with Democratic leaders to win support for a budget fix he brokered with Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins. The preliminary deal would ask voters to raise the state’s spending limits by about $840 million for at least five years. Over five years, that would allow the state to keep an estimated $3.1 billion. Voters would be asked again after five years whether they wanted to continue letting the state keep that money.– The Senate approved House Bill 1025 which lets pregnant women get prenatal care under Medicaid before the state has determined whether or not they are eligible for coverage. Only women who say they are legal residents would get care because the federal government doesn’t pay for coverage for illegal immigrants.

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