Gov. Bill Ritter said criticism that Amendment 58 will raise prices at the pump is just a scare-tactic used by the “No on 58” campaign.
Gov. Ritter hosted a roundtable of nine CSU-Pueblo students Thursday afternoon where he discussed Amendment 58, which would remove a tax credit the oil and gas companies have had for about 30 years.
Gov. Ritter took questions from students, including David Fresquez, president of Associated Student Government. He also asked students to introduce themselves and tell him about their individual financial situations.
Part of the money from the tax credit would go toward a scholarship program for college students in Colorado, Ritter said.
The scholarship would be need-based financial aid, and it would have a merit aspect to it, Ritter said. Those eligible for this scholarship must maintain a 2.5 GPA, and their parents’ income must be less than $35,000.
Oil companies normally have to pay a severance tax and a property tax, but companies in Colorado can deduct up to 87.5 percent. One Colorado oil company owed $67 million in taxes, but paid only $40 million, Ritter said.
The governor said, for an industry that has record profits, Colorado has much cheaper taxes for oil companies compared with other states like Wyoming. Ritter said he wants to ask voters to remove that tax credit for oil companies by voting “Yes” on Amendment 58.
Some of the money from the tax credit not going to higher education will go toward wildlife habitat protection while some will go toward local communities that have been affected by oil and gas drilling.
Sixty percent, $180 million, will be added to the already $110 million for financial aid for Colorado students, Ritter said.
About 10 percent will go toward renewable energy. Ritter highlighted efforts to build the world’s largest wind energy manufacturing plant.
Ritter said he hopes this extra money will help decrease the dropout rate in Colorado, currently about one in every four students. He said he wants to decrease the dropout rate by 50 percent.
He said that he hopes high school students not planning to go to college will reconsider if it is more affordable.
View the video clip from the discussion: