Joint Budget Committee Rejects Last-Ditch Attempt to Save Colorado Energy Office

Colorado State Capitol building

The Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday rejected a last-ditch effort by Gov. John Hickenlooper to save the Colorado Energy Office before its state funding expires July 1.

The vote was deadlocked 3-3 along party lines, with Democrats voting to extend the office’s $3.1 million budget for another year.

In rejecting the request, Republicans said that while they agree that the state should have an energy office, they weren’t comfortable voting to extend its funding without more guidance from the full legislature, which last year failed to reach a compromise to avert a looming funding deadline.

“I hope that there’s some way we can come to an agreement over the next few months over what the mission of the office would be and that we could get bipartisan acceptance of that,” said Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale. “We’re not there.”

Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, countered that extending the office’s funding would give lawmakers time to “continue the conversations,” without disrupting the services it provides — or the livelihoods of its 24 employees.

The Energy Office today is tasked with promoting a variety of energy sources, including renewables such as wind and solar, and fossil fuels such as coal and gas. It offers energy efficiency grants to schools and farms, and manages a popular weatherization program for low-income homeowners. It also provides grants and tax credits to help finance a variety of energy-related projects, including community solar panels and natural gas stations for alternate fuel vehicles.

Senate Republicans this session sought to use the office’s statutory expiration date as leverage to reduce the agency’s focus on renewable energy, and add things like nuclear power to its mission. But the gambit angered Democrats, and ultimately, the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement to continue the office before the legislative session’s end.

In a statement, Hickenlooper on Tuesday said he was disappointed in the joint committee’s decision. And — without offering specifics — he left the door open to salvaging the office in some form.

“We will continue to explore all options to fund this important work,” he said.

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