Legislator Woes - Business, Budget and Bills

Updated: May 27

I attended a Zoom Town hall hosted by KC Becker (Colorado Speaker of the House), Edie Hooton (Colorado House District 10 Representative), and Steven Fenberg (Colorado Senate Majority Leader) on 5/15 with Boulder County officials to discuss health and the economy as Boulder County begins to reopen. The officials were John Tayer, President & CEO, Boulder Chamber, Zac Swank, COVID-19 Business Liaison, Boulder County Public Health, and Lane Drager, COVID-19 Community Mitigation Liaison, Boulder County Public Health.

John spoke first and commented on the level of pain that the small businesses in the county were experiencing because of the lockdown, but possibly not so much as others because of the diversity of businesses, including high tech, biotechnology and federal/university research. He also noted the high level of cooperation with Public Health as the county opens up.

Lane spoke next, and presented the following slides.

BCPH Business Update 05-18-2020
Download PPTX • 3.94MB

Most of the slides were expected, but one slide was very concerning. That slide stated that we will be in a new normal until a viable vaccine is available, an effective cure is found, and herd immunity is reached; the new normal could last several months. This is an incredibly harsh exit criterium for return to normal.

Zach spoke next, and his comments were unremarkable except for what he said about rules for reopening for various businesses, which vary from business to business. Violations of rules would normally be handled with education, but could turn into enforcement. I read that as revocation of licenses, which is extremely draconian.

Finally, Edie and Steven spend some time commenting on the state of the 2020-2021 budget. The news was grim. The budget shortfall was looking like %25 of the previous budget, which will require significant cuts across the board, and may get worse. This was not a happy discussion.

Because of the pandemic, the legislative session has been severely curtailed, and Edie commented that the initial queue of bills for the session total 800(!?!) and has been cut back to 100. The impression I got that this was a major tragedy for these progressive incumbents. As a believer in limited government, I think it is cause for celebration.

This Colorado budget crisis motivated me to look at historical budgeting trends for Colorado, and compare them to one of the worst fiscal offenders, New York State, and one of the least fiscal offenders, Florida. The Colorado 2010 budget was approximately $20 billion, and ten years later the 2019 budget $32 billion, a 60% increase over 10 years, 5% annually. Seems like a hefty increase. The US inflation rate over the period 2010-2019 was 18%, 1.7% annually. The Colorado population increased in the period 2010-2019 from about 5,000,000 to 5700000 – 12% increase, about 1.5% annually. Clearly, this kind of spending, way above what is needed for inflation and population increases, in spite of TABOR, is a sign that fiscal accountability is needed now more than ever.

One of the most egregious examples of the explosion of spending is the growth of the Regulatory budget, the budget for DORA (Department of Regulatory Agencies). The budget was running consistently in the mid $80 million for years for 2015 through 2017, and then exploded in 2018 to $99 million and then to $118 million in 2019. This is emblematic of increased control over the lives of Coloradoans that we get with Progressive politics.

Now let’s look at New York State. Democrats in Albany are claiming to be victims of events that are out of their control. But they have increased spending by $43 billion since 2010—about $570,000 for each additional person. Florida’s budget has increased by $28 billion while its population has grown 2.7 million—a $10,400 increase per new resident. Colorado increased budget by $12 billion while population grew 700,000 - $17,142 per new resident. Not as bad as New York, but almost double Florida. We must continue to fight to make Colorado more like Florida, and even less like New York.


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Ken Stickney

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