Governor's FY 2009-10 Budget Balancing Plan
WATER RESOURCES REVIEW COMMITTEE
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2:47 PM -- Governor Ritter's FY 2009-10 Budget Balancing Plan for the Department of Natural Resources
Bill Levine, Budget Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, explained that on August 18, 2009, Governor Ritter released his FY 2009-10 budget balancing plan that seeks to reduce total General Fund appropriations by 10 percent (Attachment B). He explained that General Fund appropriations for the Department of Natural Resources in FY 2009-10 was $29 million including $25 million for the Division of Water Resources. The Governor's plan reduces FY 2009-10 General Fund appropriations to the department by $2.7 million and the equivalent of 5.3 full time employees (FTE). This plan replaces $2.0 million General Fund appropriations for the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation with Operational Account moneys from the Severance Tax Trust fund. The Severance Tax is collected on oil and gas and other nonrenewable minerals that are removed from the earth. He explained that this transfer would reduce moneys available for other programs that receive Operational Account moneys, called Tier 2 programs. Tier 2 programs support grants, loans, research, and construction projects. These programs are subject to proportional reduction if severance tax revenues are lower than expected. Because severance taxes are historically highly variable, Tier 2 programs are selected in part because they are designed to weather short-term reductions in funding. Under current law, the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation is authorized to receive up to 5 percent of the Tier 1 Operational Account moneys (Section 39-29-109.3 (1) (f), C.R.S.). In his explanation, Mr. Levine referenced a spreadsheet on the Operational Account of the Severance Tax Trust Fund (Attachment C).
Mr. Levine explained that Governor Ritter's budget balancing plan also seeks to eliminate the National Environmental Policy Act Coordinator position for a General Fund savings of $90,000 and reduce 5.3 FTE from the Division of Water Resources for a General Fund savings of $400,000. These positions are currently vacant and include water commissioners, engineers, and an information technology specialist.
Representative Curry expressed concern about the proposed cuts to the Division of Water Resources personnel and proposed that the Water Resources Review Committee recommend legislation to use Tier 1 Operational Account moneys from the Severance Tax Trust Fund to offset the proposed General Fund reductions. She explained that a similar bill, House Bill 09-1308, was postponed indefinitely by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. Committee discussion followed about the impact to the Division of Water Resources from the proposed reduction in General Fund appropriations. Later in the meeting, the committee approved a motion to request a draft bill that amends Section 39-29-109.3 (1), C.R.S., (Tier 1 of Severance Tax Trust Fund Operational Account) by adding a new paragraph that appropriates to the Division of Water Resources up to 5 percent of the moneys in the Operational Account of the Severance Tax Trust Fund (Section 39-29-109 (2) (b)). See the following roll call vote taken at 3:45 p.m.
Mr. Levine responded to questions about the potential use of Wildlife Cash Funds to pay for Division of Water Resources activities related to administration of water that benefits wildlife, such as instream flow rights. He also described Governor Ritter's proposal to reduce General Fund appropriations of $40,000 for the Division of Water Resources satellite monitoring system. The proposal seeks to offset this reduction with additional cash fund revenues to be collected from satellite monitoring system fees.