White, Baumgardner head to Capitol

Lawmakers plan to focus first on Colorado budget

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— Colorado's money matters are on the minds of Al White and Randy Baumgardner, who start work Wednesday in their new roles in the state General Assembly.

White, R-Hayden, will be sworn in as a state senator. Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, captured the seat White left behind in the House, representing District 57. The men said this year's budget - which, according to some estimates could have a $640 million shortfall - would be priority No. 1.

White is a member of the Joint Budget Committee, which places fiscal responsibility heavily on his shoulders.

"The only constant mandate to the Legislature is to pass a balanced budget every year," he said.

The Legislature passed its 2008-09 budget in spring for the fiscal year that began in July. Any changes will come in the form of amendments, White said. Measures that come forward for additional funding are known as supplementals, and cuts come through bills seeking negative supplementals. White said he hoped to balance the budget and retain as much tourism funding as possible.

Baumgardner said he was looking forward to being sworn in this week. From there, he said, he'll focus on the budget.

"We're going to have to be a little more creative on where the money's going to go, what we're going to fund, where the budget cuts are going to be," Baumgardner said. "A lot of that will be through the Joint Budget Committee : but we'll have to go to work on it, too."

Baumgardner will serve on the transportation and energy committee, as well as the education committee, he said. He plans to take a close look at transportation spending.

"We're looking at some different ways to fund transportation, as far as the infrastructure, highways, bridge repairs," Baumgardner said. "There's several ideas down there. That's one of the things I want to look at myself, seeing if there's some other ways we can more efficiently get the money for transportation diverted to maybe some different areas."

He said he's already spoken with Russell George, executive director of the state Department of Transportation.

Energy, agriculture and pine beetle issues also are on Baumgardner's radar as he heads into his first session.

Over in the other chamber, White said he didn't have a big list of plans beyond balancing the budget. He's the primary sponsor of a bill relating to crop damage by wildlife.

"The concept is, once the Department of Wildlife has been notified of game damage, they need to respond in timely fashion," White said. "This will help ensure that."

He predicted that things would get more interesting as the session progressed.

"It's been my experience that you start with a few bills," White said. "As the session gets going, bills start to perk. : You just don't foresee these things cropping up."

- To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234

or e-mail bterrell@steamboatpilot.com

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