Colorado Republicans, Legislating with Crayons


Colorado Republicans lost pretty much everything in the 2018 election. There are a lot of reasons for why the GOP was wiped out in Colorado, from terrible candidates to just flat-out incompetence (not to mention a lot of this), but the GOP’s complete and utter inability to govern remains perhaps their biggest hurdle to gaining voter trust. In the final days of the 2018 election, former Senate President Kevin Grantham highlighted this problem when he made a late appeal to voters that was basically just a list of everything that Republicans failed to accomplish with their one-seat majority in the State Senate.

If the first six weeks of 2019 are any indication, Republicans don’t appear to have learned any lessons from their shellacking at the polls last fall. The GOP spent the first month of the 2019 legislative session vomiting out absurdities and engaging in prolonged idiotic arguments. On Monday, State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) proudly introduced a proposal for education funding that is just flat-out stupid.

As Anna Staver explains for the Denver Post:

Sonnenberg wants to ask voters in 2020 whether the General Assembly could take lottery dollars from the Great Outdoors Colorado fund and put them into the state’s education fund. If voters approved of the change, lawmakers in the 2021 legislative session would have the option to spend none, some or all of those outdoor dollars on public education.

“I think education funding is a priority. Colorado needs to make education funding a priority,” Sonnenberg said. “Truly, do we have enough outhouses and soccer fields? Can we now re-prioritize and use it for education? I want the voters to decide.”

Voters created the outdoors fund, which is often called GOCO, in 1992. It has spent more than $1.2 billion, according to its website. Those dollars have built 900 miles of trails, upgraded 56 playgrounds and added more than 47,000 acres into the state parks system.

So much facepalming

Before we get into why the logic behind this proposal is so flawed, consider the raw numbers involved. As the Post notes, GOCO picked up about $66.2 million in 2018, which is less than 1 percent of Colorado’s $7 billion education budget. This is sort of like promising to end homelessness by building an igloo.

The GOP position on Colorado’s budgetary needs in recent years has been to make completely unsupported claims that the state actually has plenty of money…but somebody is hiding it somewhere, or something. If you could make money grow on trees just by saying that money grows on trees, Colorado Republicans would make us all very rich.

When Colorado Republicans aren’t dreaming of pots of gold under rainbows, their other go-to message for budgeting has been to spin the tired old yarn about making tough financial choices just like the average person does when sitting at their kitchen table, blah, blah, blah. Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton often talked about how Colorado could fix its transportation funding shortfalls (which add up to billions of dollars each year) if only C-DOT hadn’t spent $150 million on a new office space. If you’re trying to do the math at home, it looks like this: “2 + 2 = potato.”

Sonnenberg is doing something similar with his new proposal, suggesting that Colorado’s funding problems can be solved by regularly flipping a coin between two different budgetary needs. You can have parks and recreation areas, or you can have schools, but not both! 

On a very literal scale, Sonnenberg’s logic could (perhaps) eventually balance a budget by suffocating half of all government programs, but this isn’t a real solution. We could probably fully fund law enforcement needs in Colorado if we stopped paying firefighters, for example, but that would be stupid.

You can’t solve Colorado’s budgetary needs with false choices or double spending, but that won’t stop Republicans from floating the same wrong answers to every fiscal question.

14 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Sonnenberg has no concept regarding what Great Outdoors Colorado is all about. Much of the money goes into trail construction that supports Colorado's burgeoning outdoor recreation economy. And then those trails have to be maintained. 

    • OpenSpace says:

      Anyone who goes into the great outdoors here can say no, there are not enough outhouses.  And no, there are not enough soccer fields, or other outdoor rec spaces, or decent playgrounds for kids.

      GOCO also preserves lands not just for viewsheds but to help preserve our wildlife and water resources. GOCO was a far-sighted idea. As per usual, the GOP is super short-sighted

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      There’s more than a few small community’s recreation centers and facilities that would never have been built, or operated, or now provide employment in those communities without GOCO, or if the legislature got to reallocate those GOCO funds willy-nilly.

      Want to be allowed to allocate some monies, Senator.  Repeal fucking Tabor, huh? . . . 

  2. Diogenesdemar says:

    Crayons? . . . 

    Are you nuts?!?; Sonnenberg will poke somebody’s eye out!

    (In this fool’s defense, anybody’s who’s had the misfortune of spending time in Sonnenberg’s district probably also wonders why anyone goes outside there, anyway?)

  3. 2Jung2Die says:

    Wow, between GOCO and sports betting, we could eliminate all other forms of taxation! (well, unless we need a new sports stadium)

  4. notaskinnycook says:

    I can’t say I have a lot of sympathy for them. Every time the subject of GOCO funding and LOTTO comes up, I get mad all over again. People love what GOCO does with the money, but LOTTO was passed by voters to finance the correctional system. Then years later, after a lot of newcomers moved here, GOCO came whining that LOTTO counted as lottery money and the Department of Corrections had STOLEN that money! So they put an initiative on the ballot to “take back what was theirs”.The newcomers didn't know the history and GOCO prevailed. Now Corrections has been relegated to the general fund and GOCO still poormouths for more money. Harumph.

    • mamajama55 says:

      I never knew that history, cook. I don't remember LOTTO ever being promoted as a prison building fund source. But it could explain why Colorado still has public prisons instead of being full on private -prison industry like so many other states.

      Regarding Sonnenberg's bill: Lotto funds, after the GOCO cap is met and wilderness projects are funded, already goes to schools in the form of BEST grants, which are helping to  build schools across Colorado at this moment. So Sonnenberg is not only promoting a false choice, but he is apparently ignorant of existing practices.

      We obviously need more education funding in Colorado. DPS teachers are on their third strike day today, and voters need to step up and fund schools, and fix TABOR so that school funding rises with Colorado's booming economy. 

    • Voyageur says:

      Lotto originally provided money for state capital construction including prisons and higher education, though if I recall correctly parks always got half the total.  Cookie is right that greedheads in the parks lobby then grabbed every dime of funding by a separate referendum.

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