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Pending legislation would invest mineral-lease revenue to help upgrade rural Colorado's infrastructure. (blm.org)
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Legislation would put revenue to work in rural Colorado

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Public officials tend to refer to tax hikes, bond issues and other revenue raisers as “investments” — in schools, in infrastructure, in our future, etc. They’re easier to sell that way, and it helps keep those unruly taxpayers at bay.

Sometimes, though, government invests public funds the old-fashioned way — in stocks, bonds and the like — to actually make money off of the money it already has. The state treasurer does it; the state pension fund does it, and now, lawmakers want federal mineral lease revenue to go to work in the same way for rural communities.

House Bill 1152, which unanimously passed the Senate this week after being approved earlier in the House, would let the state’s federal mineral lease districts invest a portion of the money they receive from the state’s mineral impact fund and then let them pass the earnings from the investments to the communities the impact funds are intended to benefit.

The funding stream, derived from mineral leases, is meant to offset the wide-ranging ways mining affects nearby communities — expanding roads and upgrading infrastructure to handle increased traffic and population from a mining operation. The assistance can be critical for smaller communities that often have a limited tax and economic base.

The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, in the upper chamber and state Reps. Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction, and Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, in the House, aims to grow that revenue stream through prudent investments. The measure permits the federal mineral lease districts to invest the money in the same ways available to the state retirement system and the Treasurer’s Office.

A press release from the Senate GOP offers more background:

Under current law all funding received by FML districts must be immediately distributed or saved. HB 1152 allows districts to invest the money in order to increase the return on investment for impacted areas.

Under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, the federal government may lease public lands for the responsible production of minerals and other natural resources but must pay impacted areas a percentage of the royalties.

 

Scott is quoted in the press statement:

“These communities should invest their earnings how they see fit, that’s common sense…Rural Colorado is hurting, and our natural resources and mineral rights are one of our most profitable resources to cushion the economic blow we’ve suffered. Investing the royalties to return a greater amount of funding directly to our impacted communities could help fund new roads, schools, and any other top priorities that deserve the attention of our local governments.”

The proposal now goes to the governor.

 

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