Thursday, April 17, 2008

Senate Clears Romanoff's B.E.S.T. Bill

A bill that would allocate nearly $1 billion toward the repair of decaying and dangerous public school facilities around the state got the final approval of the Senate Thursday.

HB 1335 would tap the state's school trust lands to raise about $500 million. Romanoff proposes that about $30-$40 million of revenues from natural resource exploitation conducted on those lands be used to make payments on necessary capital obtained via debt instruments.

The other portion of the total amount to be dedicated to school renovation and repairs would come from local contributions.

Colorado's school trust lands were granted to the state upon admission to the union and on condition that they be used to benefit school children. However, the state has never before had a structured mechanism for tapping into revenues generated on those lands for the benefit of public schools.

Public school buildings across the state are aging. According to a news release issued by the House majority communications office, hazards include failing roofs, structural problems, inadequate fire safety, faulty and dangerous boilers, absestos and carbon monoxide contamination.

The bill must return to the House for consideration of Senate amendments before heading to Gov. Bill Ritter's desk.

Democrats Peter Groff of Denver and Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village sponsored HB 1335 in the Senate.

Five Republicans opposed the measure in today's vote, including Sens. Bill Cadman and Dave Schultheis of Colorado Springs, Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch, Steve Johnson of Fort Collins, and Tom Wiens of Castle Rock.