Friday, September 19, 2008

Ritter: 3rd Quarter Economic Forecast is Less Optimistic

Gov. Bill Ritter’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting released a third quarter economic and revenue forecast today, projecting a downturn in stat revenues.

According to the estimate, state general fund and cash fund revenues will rise, but by about $100 million less than anticipated in June. The governor's office now says that the state's coffers will grow by about $10.5 billion for FY 2008-2009. If accurate, this would be a 5.3 percent increase from FY 2007-2008.

“Colorado's economy continues to hang in there despite the instability at the national level,” Todd Saliman, director of Ritter’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting, said. “Our revenue forecast includes a downturn, but that downturn is moderated by strength in tourism, renewable energy, traditional energy and biosciences.”

The document says that Ritter's administration expects sales and other excise tax revenue to remain stable, with approximately four percent growth expected. Ritter predicts that severance taxes charged on natural gas extraction in the state will increase despite drops in the price of natural gas. The estimate for FY 2008-09 of $303.3 million represents a 78.4 percent increase ($133.2 million) over FY 2007-08 severance tax collections.

Colorado's ability to benefit from Referendum C is expected to decline, according to Ritter. The state is projected to retain $6.1 billion from fiscal 2005-06 through 2009-10. The $314.3 million decrease in this figure from last quarter is, according to Saliman's office, largely attributable to the compounding impact of a 0.7 percent increase in the Denver-Boulder-Greeley inflation estimate for 2008 (projected to equal 3.7 percent).

The inflation rate in the Denver metro area determines the TABOR limit and therefore the excess revenue collected under Referendum C.

The governor's economic forecast paints a rosy picture of the state's foreclosure situation, arguing that Colorado's real estate market is "substantially stronger" than the rest of the U.S.

"According to the Standard & Poors/Case-Shiller index, Denver’s real estate market is one of the strongest of any major metropolitan area of the country," says a press release issued by the governor's office. "In addition, real estate continues to be strong on the Western Slope in response to the continuing influx of oil and gas workers."

The forecast also maintains that Colorado is "experiencing lower unemployment, greater job growth, and slower inflation than the nation is overall."

Ritter predicts that Coloradans will see higher personal income growth and higher employment growth, accompanied by less inflation and a lower unemployment rate, relative to the rest of the nation this year.

The four-year forecast period covers the current fiscal year (2008-09) through fiscal year 2011-12.

Ritter Appoints 3rd, 18th District Judges

Gov. Bill Ritter today appointed new judges in the 18th Judicial District and the 3rd Judicial District.

The governor named Kurt Allen Horton to the District Court bench in the 18th Judicial District and Gary Robert Stork to the Huerfano County Court bench in the 3rd Judicial District.

Horton, of Greenwood Village, is currently of counsel with White & Steele, where his litigation practice emphasizes legal malpractice defense, civil commercial litigation and insurance issues. He has been with White & Steel since 1989 and his expertise includes real estate, secured financing, banking and insurance law.

He previously has served as senior vice president and general counsel with Silverado Banking Savings and Loan and as an associate at Hughes & Dorsey.

Horton earned his bachelors degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1976 and his law degree from the University of Denver in 1980.

The 18th Judicial District serves Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties.

Stork, of Walsenburg, recently retired as deputy district attorney for the 3rd Judicial District, which serves Huerfano and Las Animas counties. He previously served as district attorney for the 16th Judicial District from 1983 to 2005; that district serves Otero, Bent and Crowley counties.

He received his bachelors degree from Pasadena Nazarene College in 1969 and his law degree from the University of Denver in 1974.

Both appointments are effective Jan. 13, 2009, and will fill vacancies caused by judicial retirements. The appointments are for a provisional terms of two years, and then until the second Tuesday in January following the next general election.

Thereafter, if retained by the voters, the term for a district court judge is six years and the term for a county court judge is four years.

The current salary for a district court judge is $128,598. A county judge receives $123,067 per year.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Haynes Named to Higher Ed Commission

Gov. Bill Ritter has appointed Allegra “Happy” Haynes of Denver to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Haynes is currently Denver Public Schools superintendent Michael Bennet's assistant for community partnerships. She served on the Denver City Council from 1990 to 2003 and as council president from 1998 to 2000. She was Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s liaison to the council from 2003 to 2005.

Haynes is on the boards of directors for the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Stapleton Development Corporation and the Foundation for Educational Excellence.

She is a 1971 graduate of Denver’s East High School. Haynes earned her bachelors degree in political science from Barnard College at Columbia University in 1975 and her masters degree in public affairs from the University of Colorado in 2002.

Ritter appointed Haynes to a term expiring July 1, 2010.

Appointments to the 11-member Colorado Commission on Higher Education require Senate confirmation.

The commission sets policies for all state-supported institutions of higher learning.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ritter Says Feds Give State Disaster Money for Farmers

Gov. Bill Ritter announced today that the federal government has approved a secretarial disaster designation for dozens of Colorado counties that sustained agriculture losses due to drought and freezes earlier this year.

“Colorado farmers and ranchers hit hard by difficult weather conditions will now be able to receive federal aid,” Ritter said. “Colorado’s agricultural community is a vital part of this state’s economy, and this can be an important tool during this difficult time.”

Ritter is also expected to seek a disaster designation for six counties for hail, drought and snow: Alamosa, Larimer, Pueblo and Saguache (for hail); Fremont (for drought); and Custer (for excessive snow).

The news came in a letter from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Edward Schafer.

Ritter Asks US Department of Agriculture for Forest Funds

Gov. Bill Ritter is asking the Bush Administration for millions of dollars to fight Colorado's pine beetle infestation and to pay for wildfire prevention efforts.

The request comes in the form of a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, asking the department to award up to three long-term, 10-year forest-restoration contracts to private vendors in Colorado.

The department currently awards only short-term stewardship contracts, but Colorado’s new Forest Health Advisory Council says vendors require the stability of longer-term contracts.

The Governor’s letter follows passage of SJR 08-010, which requests that the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Colorado State Forest Service work together to identify and implement up to three long-term stewardship contracts.

SJR 08-010 was sponsored by Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, and Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Summit County.

“A broad spectrum of stakeholders agrees that long-term stewardship contracts are an effective tool for bridging the gap between collaboratively identified forest management priorities and the lack of resources and/or industry to accomplish them,” Ritter said. “This is an example of how we can maximize funds to keep our forests healthy and protect our communities.”

The governor's letter is here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Scanlan Briefs Interim Committee on DC Discussions About Bark Beetle Funds

Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Summit County, told an interim wildfire prevention committee of the General Assembly Monday that Congress is likely to support additional funding needed to combat the bark beetle infestation of the state's forests.

The committee agreed, after her presentation, to push for legislative adoption of range of proposals aimed at combating the bug attacks.

“The committee definitely gets it, and I am thrilled to have its full backing as we move forward” Scanlan said. “We cannot afford to have a New Orleans situation, where everyone just sits on their hands until something terrible happens.”

Among the ideas the committee will explore is obtaining Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to fight the epidemic. Colorado is not currently eligible to receive pre-disaster FEMA funding. The committee will request Colorado’s congressional delegation to examine whether it’s possible to secure FEMA pre-disaster funding that can be used on federal lands impacted by the bark beetle infestation.

The committee also reviewed 11 legislative proposals to reduce the threat of wildfire to state. Many of the proposals are specifically intended to help combat the bark beetle threat.

The committee endorsed seven of the 11 proposals, so Coloradans can expect to see a range of bills addressing everything from expanding incentives for harvesting bark beetle-affected timber to increasing grants for emergency wildfire mitigation.

Scanlan, who vice-chairs the state interim committee on wildfires, was in Washington last week seeking assistance to combat the fast-moving pine beetle epidemic.

New Judge Appointed in Arapahoe County

Gov. Bill Ritter today announced the appointment of an 18th Judicial District magistrate as an Arapahoe County Court judge.

Addison Lloyd Adams of Aurora has been a magistrate for 10 years. The 18th district covers Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties. Adams has generally handled a domestic relations docket while on that court.

Prior to entering judicial service, Adams was a partner in the Adams & Post Law Partnership, a trial attorney and public defender in Arapahoe, Adams and Denver counties, a solo practitioner, and an assistant attorney general.

He received his bachelors degree from the University of Colorado in 1974, an M.A. degree from the University of Denver in 1979, his law degree from DU in 1979 and a masters degree in social work from DU in 1993.

The appointment is effective Jan. 13, 2009 and is for a provisional term of two years. Adams would have to win a retention election to hold the seat beyond early January 2011.

The current salary for a County Court judge is $123,067.