COLUMN: Education and Energy Act a Win-Win
Every parent, teacher, and school administrator in Colorado would agree that funding our schools is of the utmost importance. If our state and nation's future is going to be a successful one, then the workforce of tomorrow must have access to qualified educators and sufficient resources.
Property taxes continue to be the leading source of funding for public education. So in a district like mine, where much of the land is owned by the federal government and therefore not taxable, education budgets are tight. I recently introduced a bill that would help states like Colorado better support public education through the responsible development of energy resources.
The Education and Energy Act, which just passed out of the Natural Resources Committee with bipartisan support, would dedicate more of the federal share of new mineral and geothermal lease royalties back to the states to fund public education. Specifically, when a new mineral or geothermal lease generates more royalties than the Congressional Budget Office predicted it would for a fiscal year, this bill would send 33 percent of the federal portion of excess revenues back to the county in which the royalties were generated and 17 percent would be split equally between all 50 states. The remaining 50 percent would be sent to the United States Treasury.
During a recent field hearing in Mesa County on responsible energy development, a portion of the conversation centered around the challenges that counties with large swaths of federal land face when it comes to funding public education and other essential services. Because there often is a large disparity in public education funding between school districts in metro and suburban areas and school districts in rural communities, I made it a priority to include a provision in the Education and Energy Act that directs the majority of the money a state would receive under this bill back to the counties in which the royalties were generated.
Mesa County is 72 percent public lands and plays a significant role in responsible energy development in the state and it is exactly the type of county that would benefit the most under the Education and Energy Act.
The Education and Energy Act is a win-win for both Colorado and the nation. We can responsibly develop our country's vast natural resources to help fund education and provide Colorado's kids with a brighter future, all while preserving environmental safeguards, lowering energy costs and creating good-paying jobs.