We’ve been talking for some time–longer, we realize, than some of our better-placed readers would prefer–about the recent passage of legislation in the Colorado General Assembly implementing a 22% raise in the daily per diem compensation paid to legislators representing districts outside Denver. As we’ve reported, passage of this in-effect pay increase for 41 of the 100 members of the legislature became politically controversial after it was passed in the GOP-controlled House with no debate, and reported only the weekend after. Tim Hoover of the Denver paper reported that GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty actually cut off a legislative aide in committee who was about to explain that the legislation paid for the extra per diem.
As of this writing, it does appear that the per diem increase will be signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper, and no legislation of the kind passed in 2010 delaying the increase has yet been introduced. But for election-year political purposes, the damage is done–with more “fiscal conservative” Republicans now on record voting for pay raises in both chambers than Democrats. It’s not exactly the cleanest political issue, with sympathetic arguments on both sides. But it will make direct-mail strategy against a number of candidates a lot easier.
And as we’ve said, one party, the “party of fiscal responsibility,” is also now, on balance, the “per diem party!” Whose base, at the end of the day, will be more sympathetic?
Remember all this, and fast-forward to late last week as the AP reports:
Questions are being raised after University of Colorado President Bruce Benson urged regents to act quickly on a large tuition hike, warning delays could make it difficult to get more money.
According to an email obtained by the Boulder Daily Camera, Benson told regents the proposal could backfire the longer they delayed action. Regents later backed off the increase because of a public outcry over plans to use some of the money for raises for top employees…
Here’s the money quote from that email, as obtained by the Boulder newspaper:
Got that? University of Colorado President, ex-GOP gubernatorial candidate, and longtime Republican funder and kingpin strategist Bruce Benson says the pesky media covering “the issue,” in this case a proposed 15% tuition hike alongside/after fat salary hikes for top CU officials, might blow up in their face! And if that happens, what about the legislative agenda?!
We’re picturing a film scene, back and forth between Benson and McNulty, reading this sentence. It would work perfectly. In both cases, Benson and McNulty were fully aware they were doing something politically self-injurious, at odds with their stated conservative principles–and in both cases, their first choice appears to have been to conceal it as best they could.
There is a very important lesson to be learned from this, we begin to realize.