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The budget: The biggest issue at the Capitol

The budget is, and will continue to be, the biggest issue at the Capitol.

The Joint Budget Committee is working hard to present a balanced long bill to us in about two weeks. The problem is that for several years the budget has been balanced by using federal stimulus money. This year that money has come to a screeching halt, and we are faced with making drastic cuts in one year rather than making gradual cuts over several years.

I believe we must prepare for more federal money reductions. Many government and private entities have depended on federal grants. The federal government has a debt of more than 14 trillion dollars. This is not sustainable, and we cannot continue to burden our children and grandchildren with more debt. Federal reductions are on the way, and it will not be pleasant.

There has been some misunderstanding about House Bill 11-1276, which is the bill that directs the courts on how they should draw the new Congressional District lines. Nowhere in the bill is there any mention that the city of Pueblo be taken out of the 3rd Congressional District. In fact, it does not make any sense for Pueblo to be in any other district. The emphasis in HB 1276 is that the Western Slope and the Eastern Plains be kept whole in their respective districts. It only makes sense to me that these “communities of interest” stay in one piece. I do not know why the legislature took this wording out of the law in 2009. My fear is that the Western Slope might be split between the north and the south. That would be a huge mistake.

The bill is not meant to hamper in any way the work of the Joint Legislative Redistricting Committee. My prayers are that this committee will get the work done to prevent judicial intervention. I apologize for any concerns the bill might have caused for our friends in Pueblo.

National Ag Week is March 13 through 19.?Governor Hickenlooper has designated March 16 as Colorado Ag Day. American agriculture provides safe, abundant and affordable food, and fiber for the United States and much of the world. Colorado agriculture generates 20 billion dollars to the state’s economy and supports 180,000 jobs. In addition, Colorado farmers and ranchers provide habitat for wildlife and beautiful vistas and open space for all of us. Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than people in any other country in the world, thanks to the efficient production of the American agriculturist.

On March 19, I will attend the 4 States Ag Expo in Cortez at Montezuma County Fairgrounds with Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar. The Expo is a great place to see all of the new things that are going on in agriculture production.

That evening, Debbie and I will be at the La Plata/Archuleta Cattleman’s annual banquet at Sky Ute Conference Center in Ignacio. Great food and great company! I hope to see you there.

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