Colorado's coming budget crisis and our own Sergeant Schultz
In a memo released Monday, Colorado's Legislative Council Staff released a memo forecasting a decline of nearly $100 million in the money available for the state government's 2008-09 budget. And that number masks a worse piece of information within the memo, that "Most of the decrease in the General Fund revenue forecast resulted from a decrease in the expectations for sales taxes, individual income taxes, and corporate income taxes. General Fund revenue is expected to be flat in FY 2008-09, which is a $203.5 million reduction from the June forecast." As I and other opponents of Referendum C argued in 2005, the very worst thing that could happen to Colorado would be for Ref C to pass and then to have a recession in the middle of the "5-year time out" (which is and always was actually a permanent tax hike). Some of you may remember that Ref C was marketed as being money for schools and roads. Well the revised forecast cuts the amount going to roads from $166 million to $28 million. Makes you wonder where they spend the several billion extra dollars they pilfered from taxpayers, doesn't it? Again, don't say that people like me or the Colorado Union of Taxpayers or the Independence Institute didn't tell you this was coming if Ref C passed. While our Republican legislators, and even a few Democrats, are calling for spending restraint now, our fiscally clueless Governor began the week stating otherwise otherwise, according to an AP article on the issue: "Ritter said it's too early to begin slashing the budget and he wants to see what happens if Congress approves a bailout of the financial industry. He said estimates from his budget office indicate there will be no shortfall." Ummm...right, Bill, no shortfall. Just say it three times and click your heels together. Somebody must have told Governor Ritter that his fiscal Sergeant Schultz impersonation "I see nothing! NOTHING!" looked bad even by the barely-existent standards of Democrats when it comes to protecting taxpayer money because Ritter changed his tune on Thursday. On Thursday afternoon, Ritter announced a state government hiring freeze (I bet his union masters fought him tooth and nail) and a "request" that "that institutions of higher education and state agencies delay the start of new construction on state-funded projects through January 31, 2009." He also "Direct(ed) department heads to scrutinize their budgets for additional savings and work with their employees to identify other money-saving ideas and strategies."Doesn't that seem like something a rational chief executive would have done without needing to see a financial runaway train about to run him over? Republican State Rep Frank McNulty put it this way: "Irresponsible assumptions during the legislative session by Democrat leadership have turned out to be a recipe for disaster. Coloradans expect their state government to be responsible with their money, but even knowing about declining state revenues last March didn't stop the Democrats in the House and Senate from spending every red cent." It also bears mentioning that the new 2008-2009 estimate still shows state government appropriations growing by more than 4.2%, and still assumes growth in each of the next three years at the statutory maximum 6%! What are they thinking??? Isn't there any sense of fiscal responsibility during the middle of an economic mini-meltdown? Why aren't Republicans screaming from the rooftops, or at least why aren't they doing so much more effectively? The Democrats are destroying our state's finances and I'll bet you only 5% of Coloradans even are aware of the issue. While I don't think this will be a Republican electoral year in any sense, Colorado Democrats better remember that they're the ones promoting "change" as the only thing that matters in an election. Democrats are trying to pin current macro economic problems on a Republican president. But all politics is local, and it's far easier to demonstrate Democratic fiscal irresponsibility in Denver than to blame President Bush for the mortgage mess. Again, I think this year is simply too bad for Republicans for them to pick up seats in the state legislature. 2010 is still far away, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if those elections shove Bill Ritter out the door as a one-term failure, with Republicans getting back control of the State Senate.
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