State Rep. Jared Wright, a Republican representing District 54, visited with about 16 constituents at a town hall meeting in Delta last week. Before taking questions, he talked about the recently concluded legislative session.
While both sides of the aisle agreed on about 80 percent of the legislation that was passed, the remaining 20 percent proved contentious. Rep. Wright said one of the biggest bones of contention was the state budget. Because it funds policies he does not agree with, he and 17 other legislators voted against the "irresponsible spending of your taxpayer dollars."
On a positive note, several bills he sponsored or co-sponsored have been signed into law by the governor. He co-sponsored a bill which allows in-state tuition rates for dependents of military families serving in Colorado. He also sponsored legislation that increases penalties for human trafficking, and is most proud of "tweaking" court filing deadlines that will save the judicial system, and therefore taxpayers, about $250,000 a year.
He cited other instances of "unbridled waste" and vowed to continue to hold state agencies accountable for the way they spend taxpayer dollars.
As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, he heard hours and hours of testimony on assorted "gun grab" bills. The two most "egregious" bills were killed in the Legislature, but all the remaining initiatives have been signed into law by the governor.
SB252 was also a topic of discussion. Although it's "terrible public policy," Rep. Wright said amendments made it easier to swallow. He cited a 2% cap on consumer price increases. "Once the 2% cap is reached — an additional $1.96 on your energy bill — and the REA can't afford to go higher, they can stop buying new renewable energy sources," Rep. Wright explained.
Another amendment lowered the percentage of renewables from 25 to 20 percent. Rep. Wright said Grand Valley Power supported the bill with amendments, as did Delta-Montrose Electric Association.
One member of the audience asked how "Obamacare" will be funded. That's a good question, Wright said, because the cost to the state could be $700 to $800 million over the next 10 years — on top of the federal government's share, also funded by taxpayers.
Rep. Wright says he believes the Democratic leadership is counting on a budget crisis to force a serious discussion about TABOR limitations.
"Medicaid expansion, I believe, is the straw that will break the camel's back. Education is another one. They see education and health care as their route to creating a crisis that we have to address.
"I'm of the opposite mindset. We shouldn't be creating a crisis; we should be managing taxpayer money wisely and appropriately."
Gerald Roberts asked about the upcoming meeting concerning potential prison closures. Rep. Wright, the House Judiciary Committee's DOC liaison, explained some of the factors the recent audit examined, from recidivism to facility budgets.
Recidivism at the Delta Correctional Center is one of the lowest in the state, Delta Mayor Ed Sisson pointed out. "They're doing something right."
While changes to the criminal code have freed up many beds, councilmember Bill Raley told Rep. Wright the parole department is paroling people who shouldn't be on the streets. "They have no alternative but to get in trouble again and they end up in the county jail system. The problem is still there, but it's transferred from the state Department of Corrections to the county jails."blog comments powered by Disqus