Help us stop the loan sharks in Colorado (again)

(Just say no – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

At the end of the Colorado legislature’s session in 2015, lobbyists for subprime predatory lenders rushed a last-minute bill through with almost no debate allowing lenders to dramatically increase interest rates on personal loans. You might remember this battle: with our members’ help, we fought back against the loan sharks and persuaded Gov. Hickenlooper to veto the bill.

With only weeks left in the 2016 legislative session, the loan sharks are back. Contact your legislators right now and tell them to vote NO on Senate Bill 16-185, the “2016 Loan Shark Enrichment Act.”

Politicians like to say they’re for protecting the middle class, but Senate Bill 16-185 would do exactly the opposite. Hiking interest rate caps on personal loans will lead to more unaffordable debt and years of steep payments–or default, which these lenders fully anticipate with some of the most aggressive collection practices in the industry.

Senate Bill 185 will cost Colorado families millions of dollars in higher interest payments, for no good reason other than increasing profits for the out-of-state hedge fund that dominates Colorado’s “supervised lending” market. Contrary to the industry’s claims, there is no evidence to indicate these loans are not accessible to consumers, and certainly no evidence they are unprofitable. Colorado consumers and hard-working families who need access to credit deserve better than predatory terms.

Contact your legislators right now: urge them to vote NO on Senate Bill 185.

Loan shark lobbyists are very good at what they do. Last year, similar legislation almost became law with practically no debate. This year, help us get the message to our lawmakers loud and clear that they work for us–and not the predatory lending industry.

Safeway Beer Buyer: I’d Like to Sell *More* Colorado Craft Beer

(This post was authored by the Your Choice Colorado campaign. – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

I’m Russ Novotny, the Liquor Sales Manager for Safeway. I’ve seen Keep Colorado Local’s signs on liquor stores—the ones that claim the sale of real beer and wine in grocery stores would put Colorado breweries out of business.

I’m not sure what math they did to get those numbers. But here’s what I do know: Colorado grocery stores want to help local brewers grow.

I’d like to be able to stock real craft beer in all of our Safeway locations across the state. Colorado shoppers want to buy it, which makes it a no-brainer for our business.

But under current Colorado law, only one grocery store per chain is allowed to sell real beer and wine in Colorado. That rule means we can only stock local beer and wine in our Littleton location. At that store the demand for real beer and wine is so high that in the next couple of weeks we’re rolling out a new display to put hundreds of Colorado craft brewers front and center.

If every store could fulfill shoppers’ demand for real beer and wine, one study estimates that craft beer sales would grow by $125 million.

But Keep Colorado Local and the liquor lobby are teaming up to block progress. They’re using fear tactics to protect their monopoly on real beer and wine sales in Colorado. Without competition, they can charge nearly 20% more. They’ve continuously convinced legislators to protect this unfair system through backroom deals.

Our opposition might claim they’re on the side of brewers, but their actions tell a different story.

It’s time to stop denying Colorado brewers more access to customers and give consumers real Colorado beer and wine in grocery stores.

Heads Up: The Loan Sharks Are Back at the Colorado Capitol

loanshark2An alert from the Bell Policy Center yesterday warns of a reprise of one of last year’s nastiest and least-expected battles in the Colorado General Assembly: another bill to allow subprime personal lenders, issuers of so-called “supervised” personal loans, to jack up interest rates on borrowers in no condition to afford it:

For the second year in a row, lobbyists for the financial services industry have waited until late in the session to introduce a bill that will benefit their clients at the expense of Colorado consumers and hard-working families.

In a session that’s supposed to be about protecting the middle class, Senate Bill 185 (Consumer Finance Charges Inflation Adjustment) would do exactly the opposite by raising the interest rates on what are called supervised consumer loans. Raising rate caps would lead to more high-cost and unaffordable credit products, hurting consumers and middle-class families.

Other than increasing profits for the out-of-state hedge fund that dominates Colorado’s market, there is no justification for this bill. Coloradans who depend on these types of loans deserve better.

In the coming days, we will be reaching out to explain how this bill will hurt Colorado consumers. Please don’t make things worse for Colorado’s working families and middle class. We urge a “no” vote on this harmful legislation.

At the tail end of the 2015 legislation session, the introduction and lightning-swift passage of House Bill 15-1390 through the Democratic-controlled House took consumer advocacy groups like the Bell Policy Center by surprise. Rallying opposition among Democrats in the Senate, and then fighting off Democrat-friendly lobbyists with a grassroots campaign publicly calling on Gov. John Hickenlooper to veto the bill, a scrappy coalition led by the Bell obtained one of only three vetoes issued by the governor in 2015. As a result of last year’s punishing blue-on-blue fight, we’ve heard that House leadership refused to allow another late bill to run through their chamber–hence the Senate bill introduced this week.

This year’s legislation is somewhat different than House Bill 15-1390, which permitted tiers of higher interest rates to be charged on larger loan amounts than current law. Senate Bill 16-185 would allow a huge increase in interest rates on amounts loaned by adjusting the loan amounts for seventeen years’ worth of inflation–from 2000 when these subprime personal loans were authorized though 2017. Thereafter the loan amounts subject to higher rates would increase annually by inflation.

The mechanism is a little different, but the intent is the same: to jack up interest rates on personal loans made to borrowers at the lower end of creditworthiness.

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Hickenlooper Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot on Legal Weed

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

7NEWS Marshall Zelinger reports, Colorado’s most well-intentioned gaffe machine, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, is at it again:

At a conference in Dallas on Tuesday, on public-private partnerships — like the U.S 36 expansion and toll lanes — Gov. John Hickenlooper warned the decision makers about legalizing marijuana.

While showing a slide that said millennials will outnumber baby boomers by 22 million in the year 2030, he said the following:

“You get all those young people who do certain things that some of us oppose and aren’t crazy about, like legalizing marijuana. Let me tell you, if you’re trying to encourage businesses to move to your state, some of the larger businesses, think twice about legalizing marijuana.”

The weed biz.

The weed biz.

Back in Colorado, folks puzzled to figure out what Hickenlooper meant, since:

At his State of the State address in January, the Governor made reference to booming business.

“Since July 2014, we’ve secured 9,000 new jobs created by companies relocating to Colorado, and existing businesses expanding here. Companies like DaVita, Intel, Reed Group, FiveStars, Gusto and Proximity Malt,” said Hickenlooper.

So, you know, what gives?

“The governor knows marijuana is part of the conversation in recruiting companies to Colorado, but it has not had any measurable impact to the economy,” his office said in a statement to Denver7.

Bottom line: we really don’t know what Hickenlooper was thinking here, but it’s not the first time he has come out of left field to disparage marijuana legalization without any evidence–indeed contradicting other statements about marijuana, or at least about its economic effects. It’s possible Hickenlooper feels obliged to talk down marijuana in front of certain audiences so as not to offend their sensibilities.

The problem is that there’s no factual basis, and it doesn’t in any way help Colorado to say this stuff. Hickenlooper’s comments needlessly imperil the objective of attracting investment to our state, and runs counter to all the news reporting on the issue voters in other states considering marijuana legalization are reading. They run counter to the experience of Coloradans since marijuana was legalized in 2012.

So please, Governor, knock this crap off.

Rep. Lawrence: Offshore Havens a “Legitimate Tax Loophole”

Rep. Polly Lawrence (R).

Rep. Polly Lawrence (R).

Yesterday, the Colorado House passed House Bill 16-1275, “Concerning the taxation of a corporation’s state income that is sheltered in a foreign jurisdiction for the purposes of tax avoidance,” on a 34-30 party-line vote. The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports on the debate over the bill:

Democrats say it’s a matter of fairness that all companies earning profits in Colorado should pay taxes. Republicans say this isn’t a good time to force that issue…

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, said Republicans’ opposition of the measure only goes to show why voters have such a mistrust of government. It’s the Colorado voters, and not big corporations, who lawmakers represent, and it’s for them the bill is intended to bring fairness, she said.

“We’re sending a message to the hard-working people of Colorado that we stand behind them,” she said. “We stand behind leveling the playing field for them. This is taking one small piece of our tax code and saying to big corporations, ‘You will no longer have the opportunity to pick a tax haven and not pay taxes.’ We all pay our income taxes. They should have to pay, too.” [Pols emphasis]

House Republicans were, needless to say, unreceptive to these arguments–but in the course of opposing this bill, at least one Republican legislator went a little too far in standing up for the rights of corporations to stash their cash overseas to avoid taxes:

LAWRENCE: This isn’t about leveling the playing field. This is about getting more money because we mismanage funds down here and we need to spend more. So we’re looking for pockets everywhere we can find them.

And because companies are using a legitimate tax loophole, [Pols emphasis] that we all take advantage of in one way or another, whether it’s our home mortgage deduction, whether it’s a home office deduction, there are benefits that each of us take advantage of when we file our taxes every year. This is one that corporations take advantage of. And it’s legal.

Got that, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer? Your mortgage deduction is just like what corporations do when they shelter their profits in the Cayman Islands! Never mind the polling that shows 73% of Americans want loopholes allowing U.S. taxes to be avoided by shifting income to overseas tax havens closed.

We’re going to go out on a limb and assume that 73% of Americans do not feel that way about their mortgage deduction.

We recognize that the debate about tax policy and tax avoidance by corporations and wealthy individuals is complex, and that sincere individuals can argue both sides of the question. With that said, Rep. Lawrence’s equating offshore tax havens with the mortgage deduction so many of her constituents rely on to afford their homes betrays a serious lack of judgment, empathy, or both.

Dems Get Tons of Pay Equity Press–Will Republicans Get Smart?

Photo by Colorado House Democrats.

Photo by Colorado House Democrats.

Yesterday, Democrats in the Colorado legislature held a press conference to announce legislation aimed at closing the persistent gap in earnings between men and women in the workplace–a problem that is actually worse in Colorado than many other states, even after Republicans in the Colorado Senate killed the state’s pay equity commission working on solutions for the problem. 9NEWS’ Allison Sylte:

Democrats in Colorado’s legislature introduced a package of bills Thursday aimed at ensuring women are paid equally when they’re doing the same jobs as men…

The Women’s Foundation of Colorado estimates that women in the state make less than 80-cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work.

“We know in recent years the pay gap has closed a bit,” Louise Myrland with the Women’s Foundation of Colorado said. “But at the rate the gap is closing, women won’t achieve equal pay with men until 2057.”

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch:

As press conferences go, this one was rock solid: A group of House Democrats were joined by women’s groups and small children Thursday to drive home the point that the equal pay issue isn’t going away as long as wages for women lag. The children wore red T-shirts that gave their ages in the 2057, the year advocates say pay for women, at the current rate of gains, will catch up to what men earn…

The Equal Pay in State Contracts Act would require state contractors to comply with equal-pay laws. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge and Janet Buckner of Aurora.

The Pay Transparency Protection Act bill, sponsored by Danielson and Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton, would protect workers who share wage information. Reps. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood and Faith Winter of Westminster are sponsoring the Fair Pay from the Start Act, which would block employers from asking job applicants about their salary history.

7NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger:

“It’s unacceptable that, in 2016, Colorado women of color and our families still have not only less to make ends meet today, but also less for a secure retirement tomorrow,” said 9to5 Colorado State Director Neha Mahajan, in a statement provided to Denver7…

Two of the new bills regarding equal pay don’t actually refer increasing salaries for women. One of the bills, “Extending Pay Transparency Protection To All Employees” protects workers from retribution if they share salary information with each other.

The other new bill, “Fair Pay From The Start” would prevent potential employers from asking your previous salary history. It would require prospective employers to only ask what your salary requirements would be.

You can also read coverage in the Grand Junction Sentinel, Denver’s Fox and CBS affiliates, and the Colorado Independent. Yesterday’s presser at the Colorado capitol was coordinated with the launch of similar legislation promoting pay equity in 20 states–a coordinated initiative organized by the national State Innovation Exchange.

The heavy press coverage of yesterday’s announcement definitely raises the stakes for Republicans in the legislature to give these bills a fair hearing. In the likely event that the bills die, it will fit seamlessly into the narrative on this issue Democrats have been gainfully pushing since the death of the pay equity commission last year. Pay equity joins parental leave, last year’s battle over a highly successful IUD contraception program, and perennial frontal attacks on abortion rights to create a compelling message for women voters–a story that transcends the names down the ballot, and clarifies for voters the bright line that divides the parties.

The best case scenario would be some kind of compromise by Republicans that passes at least some of this legislation. There’s no material downside, and politically it would be a smart way to harm-reduce on issues that hurt them with swing voters in just about every election.

Fat chance, we know. But for the record.

And Finally, The Superfund Comes To Silverton

Gov. John Hickenlooper drinks from the Animas River.

Gov. John Hickenlooper drinks from the Animas River after the August minewater spill.

As the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports this afternoon, bringing a decades-long controversy in Colorado’s high country full circle:

Attorneys for Silverton and San Juan County are in the process of drafting a letter to Colorado’s governor in support of Superfund cleanup for its leaching, abandoned mines.

While the request still must be approved by the town’s elected officials next week, the action represents the most significant move since the Gold King Mine spill in August prompted cries for a large-scale federal intervention.

“It’s a giant step,” said Bill Gardner, Silverton’s town administrator.

For two decades, Silverton rebuffed federal Superfund dollars, fearing negative economic impacts, bureaucratic red tape and stigma. But now the town is signaling that it’s working to obtain a national hazard priority listing as soon as possible.

As the Durango Herald’s Mary Shinn reports, the much bigger population centers down the Animas River from Silverton need no convincing:

The Durango City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday supporting a Superfund designation for mines above Silverton.

“I think everyone in Durango and Animas River watershed has been concerned,”said Councilor Dick White, referring to ongoing water quality issues…

States are responsible for funding 10 percent of the construction of a Superfund remediation project, EPA officials told the county in September.

If ongoing water treatment is necessary, Colorado could be responsible for covering those costs, unless a responsible party, such as a company, is found.

The shift from steadfast opposition to acceptance of the large-scale resources that the Environmental Protection Agency can bring to bear with a Superfund designation by the local governments in Silverton and San Juan County completely changes the long-term outlook for cleaning up the Animas River watershed, into which mines have been discharging wastewater contaminated with heavy metals for many years before and after the end of mining operations in the area. Previously, a combination of resistance to the “stigma” of a Superfund designation combined with a latent desire by small-time and corporate mining interests to resume production resulted in decades of stonewalling against effective remediation–stonewalling while the mines above them steadily filled with polluted water.

The EPA’s remediation crew that punched through the entrance to the Gold King Mine in August, unleashing a torrent of millions of gallons of polluted water into the Animas River, was not trying to force the issue of cleaning up these mines, and it has been determined pretty conclusively that mistakes were made by this crew that directly caused the spill. But without the kind of comprehensive cleanup operation that only the full resources of the federal government can undertake, that spill was bound to happen sooner or later. In the aftermath, even as Republican politicians jumped at the chance to gratuitously bash the EPA for this spill, everybody on the ground knew that the bigger problem wasn’t with the EPA.

Today, the long list of EPA detractors, from the area’s Congressman Scott Tipton to Durango grandstanding Ben Carson (and let’s not forget the Utah lawmakers who hatched a full-blown conspiracy theory) are not available for comment.

Questions about the hospital provider fee? Read this

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Reporters have struggled to find a short-hand description for the “hospital provider fee,” because  it’s impossible to describe briefly. And lengthy descriptions of it often require multiple readings. And that’s without trying to understand the intracacies of why it’s such a big deal.

So the Colorado Independent did us all a favor by dedicating a full article to: “What you need to know about Colorado’s biggest political battle. It’s called the hospital provider fee, and it’s complicated. Let’s break it down.”

You should take a few minutes to read the entire piece, by the Independent’s Corey Hutchins, but here are a few paragraphs:

The hospital provider fee is a state program requiring hospitals to pay money each year depending on how many patients stayed in hospital beds overnight and how much outpatient services they provided. That money is then used, among other things, to help Coloradans who can’t afford insurance plans get care, and to help the state pay for people who are on Medicaid, which is a government healthcare program for low-income Coloradans and their families.

Each hospital pays a different amount — some pay a lot, some pay nothing — and the fee hauled in nearly $700 million last year. This money is then matched almost dollar for dollar by the federal government to expand Medicaid, provide health coverage for Coloradans who are using emergency rooms for non-emergency treatment, and reimburse hospitals for care. The more money the fee brings in the more money the feds give Colorado to make sure people who can’t afford healthcare get it. Since 2009, the program has helped more than 300,000 people get insurance coverage….

Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman, who sits on the state’s budget committee, explains it like this: Picture a bucket with water pouring in. The incoming water is state revenues, and when the bucket fills to the top (or hits its TABOR limits) water starts pouring over the edge— and that overflowing water (money) goes back to taxpayers in the form of rebates. Now, picture rocks in the bottom of the bucket. One of those big rocks is money from the hospital provider fee. It’s money that takes up space in the bucket, and those who want to take a big rock out can do so by reclassifying the hospital provider fee into an enterprise…

The context of AFP’s [Americans for Prosperity, which opposes the measure] involvement is that it’s a big-time, strategic pressure group with loads of resources and activists that will keep certain lawmakers holding the line on this issue, especially at a time when they need backing to run for re-election.

Meanwhile, the business lobby in Colorado is speaking in a near-monolithic voice for reclassifying the hospital provider fee into an enterprise, as have editorial boards at some of the state’s regional newspapers.

Senate President Bill Cadman Might Not Understand the Word “Compromise”

State Sen. Bill Cadman (R-Koch Brothers) loves the word "NO."

State Sen. Bill Cadman points to his favorite word in the legislature: “NO.”

On Wednesday, Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) evoked the notions of compromise and collaboration in his opening day speech at the State Capitol:

“Performing our duties to the best of our abilities means finding the best solutions. Leadership means finding solutions. It’s not about partisan solutions. President Kennedy once said, ‘Let us not seek the Republican answer or the democratic answer but the right answer.'”

Just kidding!

On Thursday, Senate President Bill Cadman began the process of assigning some 36% of primarily-Democratic legislation to the Senate State Affairs committee — otherwise known as the “kill committee,” because bills that enter the committee room don’t usually come back out. As of Thursday evening, we counted 39 bills introduced in the State Senate, of which 14 were immediately whisked away to “State Affairs.”

Both chambers of the legislature have a “State Affairs” committee, so Democrats and Republicans can send freshly-drafted bills to their inevitable death without much of a debate beforehand. To be clear, both Parties do this regularly — just not with the same level of frequency.

Again, as of Thursday evening, we counted 78 bills introduced in the State House, 13 of which did not pass ‘GO’ and were sent immediately to the State Affairs committee — a total kill percentage of about 17%. All but two of the House bills sent to State Affairs could be characterized as being largely Republican in nature.

For all of his blustery talk about collaboration, Sen. Cadman has been decapitating Democratic legislation at a rate that is nearly double that of the State House (36% to 17%). Nearly one out of every three Senate bills that could be classified as “Democratic” will be killed off before anyone even gets to talk about them in a serious manner.

When he talks about “compromise,” perhaps Sen. Cadman means that he has agreed to only kill off about one-third of all Democratic Senate bills. Such a nice man.

Top 10 Stories of 2015 #6: Republicans Visit Boulder for a Crowded Presidential Debate

It’s difficult to remember everyone who sought the Republican nomination for President in 2015, but just for fun, let’s see how you fare before you read any further; can you name the 17 (seventeen!) GOP Presidential candidates who participated in the first big debate in early August? We’ll give you a hint: There was something called a “Jim Gilmore” on stage in Ohio in August…

…The October 28 Republican Presidential candidate debate in Boulder was one of the biggest political stories of 2015 in Colorado. The debate generated international news coverage well in advance of Oct. 28, thanks to the Republican National Committee’s strange insistence on allowing only about 1,000 seats in the 10,000-seat Coors Events Center. For nearly two months prior to the debate, there were scores of stories about protests from the University of Colorado student government and other CU students, ProgressNow Colorado, and many other local and national interest groups.

The entire event became quite the headache for CU President Bruce Ben$on and the University in general. It didn’t help that the debate itself turned out to be pretty damn boring. CNBC had built-up the debate as the first to focus on economic issues in 2015. In theory, perhaps, that sounded like a good idea; in reality, two hours of economic discussion ended up being about as interesting as listening to your grandmother talk about who she saw at the grocery store last week.

Nevertheless, the Boulder debate was your last real opportunity to see most of the GOP candidates together in one place; when the lights went on for the final 2015 debate in Las Vegas in mid-December, the GOP field had essentially separated into a top tier of just a handful of contenders. At the time of the Boulder debate, there were still 14 candidates punching it out; 10 were on stage for the main debate, with another four on the dais for the “junior varsity” or “kids’ table” debate.

Oct. 28 GOP Presidential Debate in Boulder, CO.

Oct. 28 GOP Presidential Debate in Boulder, CO.

As the calendar turned to 2016, only 11 Republican candidates are still seeking their Party’s nomination — well, 12 if you count Gilmore, who hasn’t dropped out but doesn’t really need to bother making it official. Of those final 11, there are really only 3-5 candidates who still have a legitimate chance of winning the GOP nomination: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb! Bush and either John Kasich or Chris Christie. Jeb! is still sort-of viable because he has so much money in the bank; Christie could get a boost if he manages to do well in New Hampshire; and Kasich is still hanging around as the last relatively-sane Republican in the race, who could still receive a bump if wealthy establishment Republicans really freak out.

Two candidates bowed out before the Boulder debate (Rick Perry and Scott Walker), and several more have left the campaign trail for good since the end of October (Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki). Several candidates (Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Carly Fiorina) are hanging on by the thinnest of red threads and likely won’t be around for long after the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses; Huckabee, in fact, has already said that he will end his campaign without a Top 3 finish in Iowa. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is still in the race, and he’ll probably hang around until the last campaign dollar is spent or until FOX News gives him a talking head contract.

For Colorado politicos, the Boulder debate was also their first (and in many cases, only) opportunity to see the GOP candidates live and in-person. By Oct. 28, most of the Republican field had not made a public appearance in Colorado, and the majority still have not put loafers on the ground on the 38th state. With the top tier of candidates pulling away from the rest of the field, we may not see more than a couple of the Republican candidates making a stop in Colorado. Of course, the fact that Colorado Republicans won’t hold a preference poll at their March caucus makes Colorado largely irrelevant in the delegate roundup.

For one night in late October, Colorado – and Boulder, of all places – was the epicenter of the Republican Presidential race.

Poll: Whither To Buy Your Beer and Wine?

grocery-storeThe Your Choice Colorado campaign kicked off last month, hoping to bypass the gridlocked Colorado General Assembly and take a question directly to voters next year to overturn one of Colorado’s last remaining Prohibition holdovers–the requirement that all alcoholic beverages over 3.2% alcohol content be sold in standalone liquor stores. As the Denver Post reports:

A coalition led by retail powerhouses is drafting ballot language to give Colorado voters a chance to decide whether to change Prohibition-era laws and allow full-strength beer and wine sales at supermarkets.

The effort — backed by King Soopers, Safeway and Walmart — is the most substantial push in recent years to expand sales outside liquor stores in one of the nation’s top states for beer.

A direct appeal to voters with a ballot initiative would come after years of gridlock at the General Assembly, where entrenched special interests battled in what lawmakers dubbed a “beer war.”

It’s a bit paradoxical that Colorado, one of the nation’s foremost craft brewing states, does not allow that marquee product to be sold in grocery stores as 42 states already do. On the other hand, small liquor store owners say they do just fine meeting the market’s demand for convenient alcohol sales, and that the effect of allowing full-strength beer in grocery stores will be directly measurable in lost jobs and closed small businesses. We’ve seen conflicting reports as to whether hard liquor would be included in the proposal from grocery stores, but that could be a big factor for existing liquor stores as well.

What say you, Polsters? Vote whether you would support a ballot question legalizing full-strength beer and wine, and/or hard liquor after the jump. As consumers (generally) without a dog in the fight, we’re curious to know what our readers think about an idea that presumably lots of money is about to get thrown at from both sides.

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Ken Buck Speaks For GOP Delegation Against Budget Deal

Rep. Ken Buck.

Rep. Ken Buck.

As the Greeley Tribune reports, Colorado’s foremost right-wing ideologue in Congress, Rep. Ken Buck, is not happy about a long-term fiscal deal reached between congressional Republican leaders and the White House to put an end to the pitched battles over the federal budget that have caused major upheaval and uncertainty for several years. Buck’s statement is leading local stories about the deal despite the fact that all four Republicans in Colorado’s congressional delegation voted against it:

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., voted against H.R. 1314, the budget deal negotiated by Congressional leadership and President Obama, which passed Wednesday 266 to 167 with solely Republican opposition.

The deal, released near midnight on Monday, was rushed to the floor for a vote on Wednesday, the news release from Buck’s office stated. The legislation increases the debt limit without any entitlement reform and adds an additional $80 billion in discretionary spending over the next two fiscal years.

In a statement, Buck expressed his vexation with the process and the outcome:

The deal, released near midnight on Monday, was rushed to the floor for a vote on Wednesday. The legislation increases the debt limit without any entitlement reform and adds an additional $80 billion in discretionary spending over the next two fiscal years.

“This budget deal blows through the debt limit and the spending caps we fought hard to implement in 2011,” Congressman Buck stated. “We’re trading short-term spending for the promise of long-term savings.”

And unceremoniously throwing outgoing Speaker John Boehner under the bus to the Washington Post:

“This is John Boehner’s deal,” said Rep. Ken Buck (Colo.), a conservative freshman and a member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus. [Pols emphasis]

New Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has publicly washed his hands of this agreement, claiming “we are not going to run the House this way.” In private, however, it’s been suggested that even many of the Republican “no” votes on the deal are highly relieved by its passage–even in abrogation of the once-sacred “Hastert Rule” that no bill could come to the floor without the support of “the majority of the majority.”

The budget deal may have needed Democratic support for pass in a Republican-controlled Congress, but it’s Republican “no” votes like Rep. Mike Coffman who stand to benefit most from an end to the years of open warfare between Congress and the Obama administration over the budget. The uncertainty and quantifiable economic damage done by years of government shutdown and debt-limit brinksmanship have manifested as one of the GOP’s greatest liabilities with the broad American center electorate, even as the “Tea Party” fringe has demanded ever more confrontation.

In short, even as this deal is panned by the Ken Bucks of the world, it could be the GOP’s political lifeline going into 2016–a lifeline that, looking at the actual vote yesterday, they do not deserve.

Hopefully the fact-checkers are taking notes.

Mike Coffman Backs Paul Ryan Agenda Against Colorado’s Middle Class

Following Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) election by his fellow Republicans as Speaker of the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, called on Rep. Mike Coffman to stop supporting Ryan’s disastrous budget proposals and stand up for the needs of his own constituents.

“Rep. Mike Coffman has voted for every terrible budget proposal hatched by Paul Ryan,” said ProgressNow Director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Coffman has repeatedly voted in favor of Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare, slashing taxes for the wealthiest Americans, and cutting key priorities like college investment for middle class families.”

Since Republicans took control of the House, Coffman has offered his vote every year in support of the budgets designed by then-House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan. These budgets have been denounced for their radical overhauls of Medicare, throwing millions of Americans off the health care rolls, slowing economic growth, and handing a tax break to the wealthy. [1] Rep. Mike Coffman has himself called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.” [2]

“In recent years, Republicans in Congress have given the country a choice between chaos, shutdowns, and even default–or Paul Ryan’s agenda to dismantle the institutions America’s middle class relies on,” added Runyon-Harms. “Mike Coffman stood with Paul Ryan every time, voting to hurt his own constituents. The people of Coffman’s diverse and competitive congressional district deserve better.”

Fake Reporter Art Kane Back With Another Bogus Story

Art Kane.

Art Kane.

Local freelance “journalist” Art Kane came under heavy criticism last year after writing a series of news articles for the Denver Post that inaccurately disparaged the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare, in Colorado. And these weren’t small inaccuracies, either, but wild factual exaggerations and totally unsubstantiated hearsay horror stories that fell apart under casual scrutiny.

Since then, Kane has taken up with a “news” outlet much better suited to his particular brand of hackery: the conservative Watchdog.org website run by the Franklin Center for Public Integrity. The stories may not be any more accurate–but Kane’s new bosses aren’t concerned with, you know, accuracy.

Today’s Art Kane feature story on per diem pay for Colorado state legislators at Colorado Watchdog is an excellent case in point:

Colorado lawmakers who live outside the metro area will get a bump in their per diem next session, making that state’s reimbursements the second highest in the country and costing taxpayers an additional $35,000 next year…

The per diem rate for lawmakers living outside the metro area will go up to $195 a day next session; state law sets it at 85 percent of the federal government per diem for the Denver Metro area, which also increased this year. The cost to taxpayers is an additional $35,000 a year, legislative staff wrote in an email exchange with Watchdog.org.

Colorado Union of Taxpayers president Gregory Golyansky said he was upset when he learned from last week’s Watchdog.org story the per diem expenses cost taxpayers so much money, and that raising the costs next year isn’t appropriate.

Gregory Golyansky.

Gregory Golyansky.

Setting aside Colorado Union of Taxpayers president Gregory Golyansky’s major credibility problems, with which our readers are very well acquainted, there’s a very large part of the story of this increase in per diem that Art Kane isn’t telling you:

National Conference of State Legislatures data shows the increase will skyrocket Colorado to the second highest per diem after Alaska, which pays lawmakers $235 a day if they live outside the capital area…

This year, Kentucky, Alaska and Tennessee had higher per diems, but Colorado will surpass those states unless their per diem rates increase. Expensive states such as Hawaii, New York and California reimbursed their lawmakers less than Colorado, NCSL data shows. [Pols emphasis]

As we read this story claiming that “expensive states” like Hawaii, New York, and California “reimbursed their lawmakers less than Colorado,” we remembered something very important: in Colorado, legislators don’t even make enough to survive. Here’s what the National Conference of State Legislatures really says about the salaries of lawmakers in the states listed above:

Base Salary

California: $90,526 per year
Hawaii: $57,852 per year
New York: $79,500 per year
Colorado: $30,000 per year [Pols emphasis]

This list doesn’t take into account which of these legislatures are “part time” versus “full time,” but that really doesn’t matter: Colorado legislators routinely draw per diem pay for events they attend throughout the year. Most of our lawmakers in either party will tell you that serving in the Colorado General Assembly is very much a full-time commitment. And that means except for the very young and very rich, it’s a huge financial hardship.

And in terms of their total compensation, which is of course the bottom line, Colorado lawmakers earn a tiny fraction of what legislators in these other states make. And that makes Art Kane’s latest big story…well, another steaming pile of bullshit.

Back in 2012, we were critical of a bill to raise per diem pay for legislators, mostly because at that time state employees had not received a raise in several years due to recession-forced pay freezes. Then-majority House Republicans rushing the bill through with no debate didn’t help the optics either. With that said, there’s no question that pay for lawmakers in Colorado is, at this point, a major disincentive to public service.

If Art Kane would like to write a factual story, perhaps he should start there instead.

An Open Letter to Donald Trump

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump.

I am compelled by conscience to respond to your recent hate-filled rhetoric toward immigrants and your call to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the United States.

I must call out your words for what they are: cowardly and immoral. It is cowardice to categorically attack and dehumanize 11 million people to further your own political ambition. Your words are those of a demagogue—a false ‘solution’ that riles up the worst of our humanity.

I must ask you: Did undocumented immigrants make the decisions to shutter thousands of American factories and send millions upon millions of good jobs to other countries? Did undocumented immigrants pass the ‘free trade’ agreements that have ruined both well-paid manufacturing and, increasingly, service jobs in America?  Did undocumented immigrants pass the massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that have showered further wealth upon them and led to public services cuts and extreme deficits? (I could go on and on.)

No, people with enormous economic and political power made those decisions—Wall Street, CEO’s, members of the 1%, and the politicians whom they have bought made those decisions. I will say that again—people with incredible power made those decisions. Yet, you prey upon the considerable economic insecurity that almost all Americans feel today and blame undocumented immigrants—a group that is a far cry from wielding power over the commanding heights over our economy and our politics. This is not courage, sir—it is rank cowardice.

Worse than that, you are attempting the ugly, dangerous, and age-old tactic of scapegoating. We must look at our history—and the history of the world—and remember just how dangerous scapegoating is. I urge you, and every American, to pause for a moment and reflect upon what has happened every time in history when a group that is different is first made to be the ‘other’ then blamed for that society’s problems? The next step on that treacherous path is always a call for their removal from that society—or much, much worse. This perilous call is what you have just issued.

Already, that peril is becoming clear. Two men, apparently ‘inspired’ by your rhetoric, beat a Latino homeless man in the place of my birth, Boston.  Mr. Trump, can you imagine Jesus Christ uttering the hateful words that you have towards undocumented immigrants? In fact the Bible says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) Where in any tradition of any major world religion does it call for such hatred and dehumanization of our fellow man? This is why your words are immoral.

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