State Sen. Rankin: Small businesses will lead economic recovery
Colorado Sen. Bob Rankin outlined the dire impacts of the the COVID-19 pandemic on state and county budgets in an update to Grand County Commissioners on Tuesday.
With the economic downturn and Rankin sitting on the state’s Joint Budget Committee, his legislative update to the board focused on the state’s financial woes.
The Republican from Carbondale described the spending reductions his committee had to make to balance the state’s budget, which equaled 25% or more than $3 billion. Roughly $1 billion came from K-12 and higher education, while the rest came from what Rankin described as “one time cuts.”
Rankin emphasized that the state’s and county’s future budgets will depend on how quickly the economy and state government can recover from that 25% decline.
“That depends, in my mind, on thousands of small businesses,” Rankin said. “And that depends on a balance between safety and opening up our businesses … and letting them run.”
One worry the senator brought up related to the ski industry. He said he’d been in discussions with representatives of ski resorts who were entirely uncertain what next winter will bring.
He pointed out that the large ski resorts would have the financial resources to stay closed for a few months if need be, but that’s a luxury small, local businesses dependent on the ski industry do not have.
“I worry about you and the startup of the ski industry,” Rankin told the commissioners.
He added that he’s looking at what can be done at the state level to assist. As for Gov. Jared Polis, Rankin was somewhat critical of the state’s COVID-19 response, which Rankin sees as leaning too heavily toward safety while neglecting the economic recovery.
“(Polis) and his staff are leaning toward measures that protect the public,” Rankin said. “They’re not necessarily leaning toward opening the economy. I would caution you that that balance is not being struck.”
Rankin has argued that rural communities in Colorado should have the option to respond to COVID-19 differently than the Front Range has to. He encouraged officials at every level to keep the pressure on the state for local control of the COVID-19 response.
He emphasized that cases have typically been lower in smaller communities, and that it didn’t make sense to regulate these areas the same as cities with much larger outbreaks.
“I don’t think that the small businesses and small towns of Colorado are being considered,” Rankin said.
Most importantly, Rankin felt that the success of the state would be dependent on the success of small businesses. The more people back to work, the quicker the state’s budget can recover, he explained.
“We should be looking at every one of our thousands of small businesses and seeing how soon we can help them get back to work,” Rankin said. “It’s going to be one job at a time.”
The senator also touched on the statewide Gallagher repeal that will be on ballots this November, which would save the state and local governments from revenue loss due to the impending decrease of residential assessment rates. However, Rankin doubted that the amendment would pass.
“If you’re a fire department or a county or a school district, you need to start worrying about that,” Rankin said. “I’m not sure it’ll pass because it’s a rural issue.”
Rankin went on to describe some of his progress on bills related to health insurance and how Colorado teachers are trained to teach reading.
He also mentioned his continued work on a bill tackling “cost of care” in health insurance. The drafted bill would work to reduce all around health care costs though a data driven approach, and it’s something the senator plans to move forward with next year.
Rankin represents Colorado Senate District 8, which covers Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Jackson, Summit and Grand counties.
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Grand County voters will be deciding on a number of issues this November from tax increases to school board memberships. Ballots were mailed out last week and Election Day is Nov. 2.