Dealing with the nation’s, and Colorado’s, fiscal future


By Sen. Roberts

Just when we thought that election season was over, December threatens to be a slog through more of the same.

November’s results were disappointing from my side of the aisle and good friends and hard-working policymakers will be on to new pursuits in the coming year.

The election is over, though, and we continue to face monumental tasks at the state and federal level.  We need solutions, sacrifice and leadership from all to get beyond our challenges.  Continued failure to come up with a compromise to deal with our national deficit and debt won’t only ruin the holiday season, but threatens to ruin our nation.

One might wonder, since I’m a state, not federal, legislator, why do I care so much about this?

All Americans should care deeply about the over-subscribed house of cards that we’ve built for ourselves.  Also, failure to address the national finances impacts my job, as 25 percent of Colorado’s revenue is federal funds, with plenty of strings attached.

Colorado’s fiscal future is tied directly to the health of the federal government’s balance sheet.

I’ll be in Washington, D.C., this month as part of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ fiscal leaders’ forum and co-chairing the fall meeting of the Budgets and Revenue committee.  We’ll be reminding congressional members of the consequences of their action, or inaction, on the daily lives of the citizens as seen through the eyes of state legislators, from both sides of the aisle.

Colorado’s Sen. Bennet deserves recognition for working alongside Tennessee’s Sen. Alexander to offer the Obama administration yet another bipartisan proposal to consider.  Working across the aisle often generates more criticism than praise from one’s own party and I admire their courage and resolve; I hope it spreads like a positive flu in the halls of Congress.

On reducing spending, unlike special interest and advocacy groups who are shouting a message of don’t touch our perks and benefits, NCSL’s message is: The problem is so big and real, you must touch everyone, including state legislatures’ budgets, just do it thoughtfully.

Sequestration, as a big part of the “fiscal cliff” discussion, was supposed to be the ultimate stop to delays in meaningfully addressing our fiscal house of cards.  Unfortunately, once again back down to the wire, avoiding or delaying sequestration is the only thing anyone seems to agree on.

In addressing revenue, as the largest, bipartisan organization of state legislators, NCSL advocates strongly for the passage of the federal Marketplace Fairness Act.  In a nutshell, the federal bill would stop the tax avoidance that happens through internet sales by authorizing the collection of state and local sales and use taxes from remote sellers.

The 2010 Colorado Legislature attempted this at the state level only.

I voted against that bill because it was legally flawed and compliance with it put Colorado’s Department of Revenue, already holding a troublesome record on effectiveness, on steroids.

The “Amazon tax” bill was struck down by the court as unconstitutionally burdensome.  However, I support the passage of the federal bill as it’ll put Main Street businesses back on a level playing field with Internet retailers.

Personally, I’m looking forward to time with my family before the next session starts in January and  I wish all a terrific holiday season and optimism for a good year ahead.