Stimulus bills to pay off rapidly, House Speaker Carroll says in Frisco
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Summit County, CO Colorado
An economic-stimulus bill to repair roads should have a quick impact in Colorado, the state House Speaker said in Frisco on Friday.
But the state still is facing serious budget cuts that will require major sacrifices before the economy is expected to turn around, Speaker Terrance Carroll said.
“We’ve made a lot of progress in our main goal, where we can create jobs in Colorado and sustain jobs in Colorado,” he said. “I feel confident we’re going to to get it turned around.”
Carroll’s 90-minute meeting with a half dozen local officials and residents at the Community and Senior Center in the County Commons focused entirely on the economy and government services.
Touring through a swath of the state during a lull in legislative action, Carroll said the so-called FASTER bill will get road contractors back to work quickly and create demand for engineers, equipment rentals, restaurants, retailers and the like.
“You should start to see it pretty quick. It will have a multiplier effect,” said Carroll, a Denver Democrat.
The measure, introduced by Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Farmer’s Korner, would generate an estimated $250 million annually through increases in vehicle-registration fees and help address the state’s decaying roads and bridges.
The bill has been estimated to create or preserve between 10,000 and 30,000 jobs, Carroll said, and at least 80 percent of the labor force must live in Colorado.
Registration fees for most vehicles will climb by $41 under the measure, signed into law this week by Gov. Bill Ritter, and while Carroll supported the effort, he bristles at the stereotype of tax-and-spend Democrats.
“I like keeping taxes in my pockets,” he said. “I also understand that there’s a common good that we need to be concerned about. …
“I personally don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night with the phone call, ‘Hey, Mr. Speaker, the bridge just fell down.”
Still, he said political leaders are making other tough choices to slash $600 million from the state budget.
Among the cuts already approved by the House are suspending $34.5 million in construction for full-day kindergarten programs and $20 million in the amount the state pays individual school districts for every student.
“Cuts to education kill me,” Carroll said, noting that students who don’t start off in kindergarten are more likely to drop out of high school, and dropouts are far more likely to end up in jail or relying on the social-services safety net.
The grandson of a sharecropper and great-grandson of a freed slave, Carroll ” an ordained Baptist minister ” noted he was the first person in his family to go to college, much less get a law degree.
“It pains me when I don’t give another kid the same opportunity I had,” he said. “I don’t want to cut full-day kindergarten, but it’s the responsible thing to do.”
County commissioners Bob French and Thomas Davidson noted that government spending limits enshrined in the state constitution have stripped government officials of flexibility in tough economic times.
“You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” Davidson said of efforts to repeal portions of the TABOR amendment and a preceding 6 percent spending limit.
“If you do something about it, it’s going to be political fodder for someone,” Davidson continued. “And if you don’t do something and you can’t fund higher ed, you can’t plow roads, then there’s going to be more ammunition for people who say: ‘Look at that government incompetence.'”
Local banker Merle Clocke said that officials need to do a better job of showing the public that they are spending tax dollars wisely.
“The first thing I want to have my elected officials saying,” Clocke said, “is we have looked at this budget up and down, and there’s nothing more we can cut.”
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