2012 Legislative Wrap-up

CUT disheartened by $19 billion bipartisan state budget

The Colorado Statesman

The Colorado Union of Taxpayers, or CUT, gave the legislature an “F” this year for passing one of the largest budgets in recent years.

The organization, which advocates for limited government and low taxes, said the $19 billion budget that passed with historic bipartisan support is “disheartening while Colorado citizens are reeling from a depressed economy and their incomes have not kept pace with such increases.”

“As citizens must tighten their belts, they ask, ‘Where are the spending cuts from government?’” said Marty Neilson, president of CUT.

The budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year that started this month includes a $7.7 billion General Fund spending plan, and was backed by 86 of the 100 lawmakers.

Additional spending in the budget this year was thanks to rosier revenue forecasts that indicated that there was an extra nearly $200 million for lawmakers to allocate. But despite the positive forecasts, CUT believes lawmakers should have still tried to reign in spending, and therefore it gave the legislature an “F” in its annual legislative scorecard released on June 29.

Instead, CUT would have liked to see lawmakers pass a measure that would have reinstated the 6 percent General Fund spending limitation that Democrats eliminated in 2009.

“On the contrary, the legislature failed to pass HB 1075, which would have restored the 6 percent spending limit and established a ‘rainy day’ fund,” said Neilson.

The organization was also frustrated that the legislature failed to pass House Bill 1014, which would have lowered vehicle registration fees, and that several attempts at reforming the Public Employees’ Retirement Association of Colorado, or PERA, failed.

From an individual liberty perspective, CUT was concerned that another measure, Senate Bill 68, which prohibits trans fats in public schools, made it through the legislature and was signed by the governor.

“So much for personal responsibility,” Neilson said of SB 68 in the organization’s 2012 report.
CUT is somewhat pleased, however, that lawmakers passed House Bill 1037, which classifies certain agricultural products as wholesale.

Lawmakers rated on tax, spending and limited government votes

As for the lawmakers themselves, two outgoing legislators, Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, and Rep. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield, earned CUT’s “Taxpayer Champion” designations. Mitchell scored 90 percent on CUT’s legislative scorecard, and Beezley scored a 96 percent.

Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, and Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, earned CUT’s “Taxpayer Guardian” designation. Neville scored 89 percent and Baumgardner scored 93 percent.

Not surprisingly, Republicans received higher marks. Senate Democrats scored only 8 percent, compared to 69 percent by Senate Republicans; and House Democrats scored 10 percent, compared to 68 percent by House Republicans.

Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, scored the highest for Democrats in the Senate, earning 17 percent rating, and Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Walsh, scored the highest for Democrats in the House, earning 41 percent.

The lowest scoring Republicans were Sens. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, and Jean White, R-Hayden, who both earned 27 percent for their work in the Senate. Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, earned the lowest score for Republicans in the House, with a 30 percent rating.

Compared to last year, the Senate dropped six percentage points, falling to a 34 percent overall rating, and the House inched up one percentage point to a 40 percent, according to CUT.

Gov. John Hickenlooper also earned a failing grade for the year, garnering only a 14 percent rating by CUT. His score is down from last year’s equally dismal score of 16 percent.

“The governor continues to move toward tax and spend, nanny-state, government interference in free enterprise, and expanded entitlements policies,” Neilson said in his report.

The governor was applauded by CUT, however, for vetoing a bill that would have expanded subsidies to tourism businesses. But overall, CUT was not pleased with the governor’s work.

“Two more years of left-leaning leadership will devastate Colorado and hurt taxpayers,” said Neilson. “Encourage the governor to support business, spending restraint and individual liberty.”

-Peter@coloradostatesman.com