We mentioned this developing story in today’s Get More Smarter roundup, but the crisis over Republican intransigence on a deal to increase revenue for transportation spending in Colorado is getting worse by the minute–recapping the Denver Post’s report today on an “alternative” to the bipartisan deal between the Senate and House leadership from the #2 Republican in the Senate:
Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg calls his effort “supplemental” but the proposal is a clear alternative to the one put forward by Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran.
Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said his draft bill would not increase taxes and would use $100 million in existing state dollars to cover a much smaller $1.3 billion bond, which is only enough to improve small local roads.
“I am going to do a supplemental transportation bill that may reduce the tax increase, may provide for some help if this transportation bill doesn’t pass,” he said Monday in a briefing with reporters in Grantham’s office.
At the same time, conservative activists led by the Independence Institute are pushing an “alternative measure” called “Fix Our Damn Roads,” which directs the state to find money in the existing budget to pay for roads improvements:
On Friday, Jon Caldara, head of the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, filed his own ballot measure with the Colorado Legislative Council that calls for $2.5 billion in bonding without the tax increase and without the transit funding. There’s enough money in the existing budget to pay for road improvements, he said, and the legislature needs to stop messing around.
And at the top of the Republican food chain, national conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity is leading opposition under the Gold Dome to the bipartisan roads compromise:
— Michael Fields (@MichaelCLFields) March 14, 2017
Watching Americans for Prosperity tear into Senate GOP leadership is particularly interesting, since there has been famously little daylight between that group and Senate Republicans ever since former Senate President Bill Cadman credited AFP with the Republican majority after the 2014 elections. The spokesman for Senate Republicans, Sean Paige, is himself a former AFP staffer–and taking fire from his former shop must be an unusual experience.
Both AFP and the Independence Institute are demonstrating a dogmatic unwillingness to compromise on this important issue, placing them well outside even the Republican mainstream–the proof of that being their opposition to a plan negotiated by a Republican Senate President. Both AFP and the Independence Institute have celebrated the “fiscal responsibility” that the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires the state to observe, but still claim there is hundreds of millions of dollars of waste in the budget that can be “reprioritized” to fund road repairs. Obviously, only one of those can be true.
At some point, you just have to understand that these groups are not interested in a constructive outcome. Their proposals can afford to be unworkable because they are not intended to be serious. These “alternatives” only exist to thwart debate on the real deal. It’s fine for outside pressure groups to draw an ideological hard line like this, but that shouldn’t be the final answer from responsible elected government officials. Governing, after all, is all about compromise.
Unfortunately, these groups wield enormous power. And too often, they write the script that Republican lawmakers read.