By LUCAS TURNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
RBC | Bob Rankin is seeking re-election to Colorado’s 8th Senate District, after being appointed to the seat by a vacancy committee in 2019. Before the appointment he served three terms as the representative for Colorado House District 57. In 2020 he sits as a senior member of the state’s joint budget committee.
Rankin told the HT about some of his legislative priorities if he returns to the Capital this year.
At the top of the list for Rankin are economic recovery, the cost of healthcare, rural school funding, water, and amplifying rural voices in the state legislature.
“There are some unique challenges, quite a few unique challenges since rural legislators are outnumbered in Denver”
“The legislature looks at over 600 bills every year and every one of them may in some way affect our towns, ranches, mines, gas wells… so you have to be really alert for any possible effects that might be different for rural Colorado, and pay attention,” Rankin said.
Rankin said he spends a lot of time reminding urban colleagues that rural communities experience legislative impacts differently than front range communities, a key example, he said, can be seen in the school funding model.
“Because of the disparity in the ability of districts to raise money, you end up with some districts worth a lot of money and some not much. And right now there’s over a billion and a half dollars injected into the school system in the state, coming from these mill levy overrides, but it’s very badly distributed. So that’s an inequity for rural districts that don’t have high property values like downtown Denver or Aspen,” he said.
Rankin also spoke about how rural communities will need to adapt to declining production from fossil fuel extraction, which he says is just as much related to the international market and prices as it is a state regulation.
“I mean if we got the Jordan Cove and a pipeline that would help create an international market. But even then it’s not gonna be a strong market because of [the] international situation. So having said all that we’re on a course that we can’t really change.”
“Certainly the state of Colorado has no willingness to change it and probably no ability to change the dynamics of the market. So I think we have to think that property taxes for Garfield, Moffat, Rio Blanco counties are gonna be severely negatively impacted, and we have to start to plan for that,” he said.
Whether it’s further broadband development, attracting tourists or even looking to new technological innovations, Rankin said the ideas for future economic development need to come from within the affected communities.
“I don’t think the state, or even the national government ought to come in and tell people what they’re gonna do for their next job, but I’m pretty optimistic about Craig and Meeker looking for other things, tourism, all sorts of new ideas. So I think the [ideas] that come from inside the community are the way to go, I think the state can help with those, through grants.”
“Meeker, you know Rio Blanco did a great job with getting internet in place and that’s already paying off. Wanna do that up in Craig as well…so rather than thinking we can change…we’re not suddenly going to create a market for oil and gas or coal. So what we really have to do is, driven from within the community, find ways to adapt.” he said.
Rankin applied this concept of local input to the adaptations that will be needed to address current and future water shortages on the Western Slope.
“When we did the water plan, there wasn’t some big top-down state plan. it actually started with these eight different basin roundtables. So I think from a policy perspective continuing to reinforce those and get local input about those needs is important.”
“The aspect of water we can do something about is many local projects. Like every ditch company, and every river management area has a series of small projects that enhance the health of the streams like the Colorado River in the state. Those projects on the local level [that] might be $100,000, $50,000, are really important. So I’ve tried to keep the funds there for the local basin roundtables to do grants and projects, because that’s where the real health of the streams comes in, it’s a local issue,” he said.
Bob Rankin writes articles about all these issues and more for newspapers around the state, which he said are all posted on his website: votebobrankin.com
To hear a full version of this interview, with more on school funding, healthcare costs and more, visit us at soundcloud.com/heraldtimes1885