Severance tax boost proposed

I can’t take credit for it, but after my “Education gap” post last week (see below) called for increasing Colorado’s mineral severance tax to boost revenues for the state’s woefully-funded higher education system, someone actually may be trying to do something about it.

Today’s Glenwood Post-Independent reports that the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC) — which represents several western Colorado counties — will ask Gov. Bill Ritter to create a blue ribbon committee to draft changes to the state’s severance tax and federal mineral leasing distribution.

What’s not clear yet is whether this will turn into yet another grab for existing tax revenue, or a long-overdue increase in the state’s overall severance tax rate, which is needed to bring Colorado into line with neighboring Rocky Mountain states.

State Senator Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village is reportedly pushing for a legislative committee to increase severance tax funding for higher education. But Garfield County Commissioner Larry McCown correctly warns that if legislators simply “raid” existing tax revenue to bolster higher education, it will take away funds that are much-needed to address the growing impacts of mineral development on the West Slope.

AGNC executive director Aron Diaz seems to be on the right track. “It is our hope that we can produce a positive and proactive committee that will look at making Colorado a more competitive environment that will actually meet or exceed current severance tax revenue projections,” he says. “We are not interested in simply looking for schemes that will further carve up the current distribution system.”

Right on, Aron.

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