2020 Leg Session, Agriculture, Environment, Exclusives, Featured, Original Report, Scott Weiser, TABOR, Taxes, Uncategorized

Rep. Matt Soper revokes his support for fee-based hazard mitigation bill

DENVER–Revoking his sponsorship of House Bill 1142, Rep. Matt Soper, R-Delta, said he is disappointed with the lack of cooperation in ensuring that private citizens would have access to grant funds collected as part of the new hazard mitigation enterprise the legislation calls for.

The bill sets up a new state-owned enterprise that levies a 0.05% fee on certain insurance policies to fund both grant assistance and public information and outreach programs for insurance companies. The revenues generated are not subject to Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) revenue and spending limits.

The intent is to provide a “long-term, consistent source of funds to mitigate hazard exposure in Colorado.”

A lack of stable funding for hazard mitigation work, says the bill, “limits the ability of local governments, particularly smaller jurisdictions, to take advantage of federal funding available to mitigate known hazards because of federal grant match requirements.”

“A big issue was being able to ensure that when applying for these grants we had the widest possible eligibility,” Soper told Complete Colorado Friday. “If, for example a particular federal grant which individual landowners needed help with [the enterprise] would at least be able to make available state resources to pursue that.”

Soper said he didn’t get much cooperation in trying to make sure landowners would be included.

The fiscal note attached to the bill says the enterprise would create about $4.5 million per year in revenues and would cost about $154,000 each year through 2022. The program can only award 80% of annual revenue, amounting to about $3.6 million in grants.

Soper said he encountered a lot of resistance to the idea of giving grants to private property owners from the Colorado Department of Public Safety. Such grants were one of the primary goals he was interested in when he agreed to sponsor the bill.

Soper also became concerned about the structuring the program as a fee-based enterprise.

“I was hoping that we could come to a better funding mechanism than having a fee that was outside of TABOR and I was told that there would be a possibility of negotiations there,” Soper said. “That didn’t happen. That was a big issue for me.”

“There’s several other fire mitigation bills [up for consideration], and it was fire mitigation that I was thinking of,” said Soper. “When I stepped back I found it was a pretty broad field that was not ready for prime time. I told the sponsors that I’d be willing to work with them more, just not this session.”

He also admitted that as a freshman representative his enthusiasm and optimism were probably misplaced.

“Sometime, when things are fast-paced, in January when you read a bill it sounds really good, but the more you read and think about it you realize you made a big mistake ever getting on the bill,” Soper said. “I would say that was me. I should have probably stopped to think about it a bit longer. I had the bold attitude of thinking that I might be able to get on the bill to change it. That was not the case here.”

The bill will be heard in the House Energy & Environment Committee February 20 in HCR 0107 upon adjournment.

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