White, Taylor back budget bill

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State Rep. Al White was one of six Republicans to break ranks and approve a Democratic plan to fix the budget crisis.

Republican state Sen. Jack Taylor, a co-sponsor of the bill, said he'll do the same when the proposal reaches the floor of the Democrat-controlled Senate.

House lawmakers approved Rep. Andrew Romanoff's measure in a 41-22 vote Thursday. The bill is expected to move to the Senate as early as today.

Under Rom--anoff's proposal, the state income tax rate would drop from 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent, but voters would be asked to sacrifice a portion of their tax surplus refunds for the next 10 years. Democrats estimate the plan will cost taxpayers $8.3 billion during those 10 years because it allows the state to keep more tax revenue rather than refunding it.

Voters ultimately would have to approve the proposal because it would amend the state constitution.

The bill seeks to create a solution for two conflicting constitutional amendments blamed for the state's ongoing fiscal crisis, which has resulted in severe program and budget cuts during the past several years. The Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR, approved by voters in 1992, limits the amount of revenue the state can keep and spend. Amendment 23, passed by voters in 2000, requires the state to increase annually K-12 education funding by inflation plus 1 percent.

White, R-Winter Park, said the bill isn't perfect but it provides a good foundation for addressing the budget mess.

"I voted for it because I thought it was the right thing to do," White said. "My biggest concern (Thursday) was that we get something in the process instead of sitting on our hands."

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were frustrated by failed attempts to come up with a budget solution at the end of last year's legislative session.

"Up until now, we haven't taken a step," White said. "This is a step in the right direction."

Not all of his Republican peers were pleased with his vote, White admitted.

"I believe I'm doing what's in the best interest of my constituents," he said. "I try to put partisanship on the back burner."

White would rather the bill ask taxpayers to give up their refund checks for five or six years instead of 10 years. He hopes the bill will be amended as such when it reaches the Senate.

"I really don't think we're far away," White said.

Republican Gov. Bill Owens has opposed the bill and has said he would offer voters a competing plan if Democrats don't compromise. White said putting two ballot initiatives seeking to solve the same problem on the November ballot likely would result in neither being approved by voters.

"I think it's imperative that everyone be on the same page," he said, adding that Owens may support Romanoff's legislation if the number of years voters must sacrifice their refund checks is decreased.

Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, soon will get his chance to support the bill, too.

"I am one of five Republican senators who co-sponsored the Romanoff bill because I feel strongly this should be a bipartisan effort to get the job done and to put a strong proposal on the budget," Taylor said Thursday.

"It's working in the right direction. I look forward to seeing it in the Senate."

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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