COLORADO BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS
DENVER (AP) – Next year's budget for Colorado has passed the state Senate with funding increases for public schools, higher education, and money for construction projects at colleges and state buildings. The budget passed Thursday on a 19-15 vote. All Republicans voted no. Republicans say budget spending is growing faster than the state economy. But Democrats say they've been prudent and left some aside in savings for future years. The spending plan also includes a pay raise for state employees – the first in five years. The House will now consider the budget. General fund expenditures, which lawmakers control, are expected to be about $8.2 billion next year, compared to $7.6 billion in the current budget year. The state's total budget, which includes federal money and cash funds, is about $20.5 billion.
DENVER (AP) – Marijuana regulation is moving slowly in Colorado, and the effort to set rules for the drug faltered again. Lawmakers on a special House-Senate committee to regulate marijuana delayed many decisions on what was supposed to be their final day. The committee got off to a foul start when members from both parties expressed outrage after a state audit released this week detailed misspending and poor management at the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. Lawmakers put off votes on how marijuana should be taxed. On marijuana product safety, lawmakers simply agreed that the governor should decide which agency oversees it. A bill to regulate marijuana now isn't expected until the middle part of April. That leaves lawmakers just a few weeks to regulate pot.
NO CONTAMINANTS FOUND FROM SPILL IN PARACHUTE
PARACHUTE (AP) – A state official says test results indicate no pollution in Parachute Creek from a large oil-like leak near a Williams Midstream natural gas processing plant. Williams Midstream spokeswoman Donna Gray said Wednesday there is no evidence that Parachute Creek itself has been contaminated by the leak. Parachute Creek flows into the Colorado River. Residents say the report is incomplete and insufficient. The company is in charge of finding the leak, which since March 8 is believed to have soaked the ground with more than 6,000 gallons of unidentified hydrocarbon compounds and at least 153,600 gallons of contaminated water. Workers are focusing on a valve box for a pipeline carrying natural gas liquids away from a natural gas plant as a possible source.
SKIING ON BURNT MOUNTAIN UP IN THE AIR
ASPEN (AP) – The U.S. Forest Service is getting mixed messages from skiers and environmentalists over plans for a trail for skiing on Burnt Mountain. Forest Service coordinator Jim Stark says responses have been half and half. The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District invited public comment on Aspen Skiing Co.'s plan to add a 3,100-foot-long trail that would lead skiers and snowboarders from 230 acres of gladed terrain added on Burnt Mountain this winter to the Long Shot trail on the western side of Burnt Mountain.
The Forest Service says trees will need to be cleared to create a path that has drawn sharp criticism.