Romer Nets Mejia Endorsement

(That sound you hear? It’s the Fat Lady. She’s warming up. – promoted by Colorado Pols)

James Mejia will be endorsing Chris Romer in the Denver mayoral race. Romer has been considered the clear frontrunner from the beginning of the campaign for Denver’s next mayor, and this endorsement will only further cement that position in the run-off.

Any hopes of an “anti-Romer” coalition forming have effectively been ruined. As Pols rightly pointed out, the clout of the 29,170 votes Mejia received is undeniable. Considering Romer’s fundraising prowess and ability to hire on additional field staffers, Hancock faces an uphill battle against an opponent who will undoubtedly pick up donations and volunteers from this endorsement.

Of course, it is yet to be seen whether Mejia will actively campaign and convince his supporters to rally behind Romer.

A Mejia endorsement would have been a much needed boost to Michael Hancock’s campaign. He has been on the ropes recently, suffering from an attack from Romer’s campaign as to whether he is “pro-choice” or “pro-family planning”.

Though Mejia is reported to have talked to both candidates over the weekend, it is unclear whether he has a pre-ordained position in a potential Romer administration.  

[poll id=”1340″]

0 Shares

Romer Nets Mejia Endorsement

James Mejia will be endorsing Chris Romer in the Denver mayoral race. Romer has been considered the clear frontrunner from the beginning of the campaign for Denver’s next mayor, and this endorsement will only further cement that position in the run-off.

Any hopes of an “anti-Romer” coalition forming have effectively been ruined. As Pols rightly pointed out, the clout of the 29,170 votes Mejia received is undeniable. Considering Romer’s fundraising prowess and ability to hire on additional field staffers, Hancock faces an uphill battle against an opponent who will undoubtedly pick up donations and volunteers from this endorsement.

Of course, it is yet to be seen whether Mejia will actively campaign and convince his supporters to rally behind Romer.

A Mejia endorsement would have been a much needed boost to Michael Hancock’s campaign. He has been on the ropes recently, suffering from an attack from Romer’s campaign as to whether he is “pro-choice” or “pro-family planning”.

Though Mejia is reported to have talked to both candidates over the weekend, it is unclear whether he has a pre-ordained position in a potential Romer administration.

Whatya say, folks? Is there a chance that Hancock can come from behind to win this one?

[poll id=”1339″]

0 Shares

Gov. Jan Brewer: TABOR in Colorado a “Failed Experiment”

(This will be a fun one for TABOR diehards to rationalize. Jan Brewer is no “RINO” — this is the same Governor who tells scary stories about the border that are largely untrue. – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Now, I have been critical of Gov. Jan Brewer from time to time. I have characterized her in unkind ways and have opposed her inflammatory rhetoric vehemently. But I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has just vetoed a TABOR incarnate based on some sound reasoning:

“Unfortunately, House Bill 2012 uses a mechanism that is too restrictive. We should learn from the State of Colorado that experimented with a similar mechanism, an experiment that failed.”

Look, when Gov. Jan Brewer is giving us lessons on fiscal policy, it might be time to look ourselves in the mirror. The character that wrote TABOR was recently imprisoned and Colorado’s fiscal situation is dependent on whether we, as a state, can envision serving our citizens with adequate services.

If you’re wondering why Jan Brewer considers TABOR as unwise fiscal policy, simply look to the Bell Policy Center’s Ten Years of Tabor. It is key to understanding why Colorado is 50th in the nation in state support for higher education, 47th in K-12 and stuck in a situation where that support is continually eroding.

Although I’m glad our state is a cautionary tale to states considering arbitrary “spending limits”, Colorado is lacking a concerted effort to fix our budget problems by increasing revenue or reforming the state constitution.

In fact, Rep. Delgrosso and Rep. Beezley are trying to reinstate the same spending caps that Gov. Brewer is talking about in her letter through House Bill 1280. SB 09-228 cleared many of the absurd “spending limits” and formulas in TABOR that would have had a ratchet effect on state services during a prolonged recession.

“Coloradans were upset when Democrats in the legislature repealed the long-standing spending limit,” said Beezley. “This proposal reinstates that limit and ensures that Colorado has a prudent spending limit in place.”

This veto is an egg in the face to the proponents of TABOR and House Bill 1280 that view ludicrous fiscal policy and perpetual budget deficits as a success. Let us hope that our state, and others, can learn from this failed experiment.

0 Shares

Colorado ASSET Faces Senate Tomorrow

The Colorado ASSET bill will come before the Senate for a floor vote tomorrow at 9am. If it passes, if faces a much tougher fight in the House, with only 30 votes locked in.

This bill would allow around 400 Colorado students, who have played by the rules, stayed in school and likely had no choice as to what their immigration status would be as children. The estimated $2-4 million in revenue expected from the bill would help to soften a projected $36 million cut to higher education, one that would reduce per pupil spending by a little less than $1000.

These students have no home. I knew students in high school that knew they had little chance of advancing themselves once they graduated purely because of their immigration status. If they can’t receive in-state tuition in the state they grew up in and went to school in, what options are left for them to advance themselves? It is nonsensical that after contributing over $100,000 for a students’ K-12 education we would make attending college unaffordable.

Steve Jordan, president of Metropolitan State College of Denver said, “We have to stop thinking about the what we have been spending on these children in grades K-12 as an expense and instead as an investment in intellectual capital.”

I wanted to touch on something that I heard during the speech on the deficit; I believe in a country where if you work hard, play by the rules and get yourself an education, anything should be possible. How have these kids not exemplified this idea? The ability for residents of our state to receive in-state tuition is part of a compact that we have with our residents. I refuse to believe that we live in a state that, after providing a child education for 13 years, firmly shuts the door in their face when they attempt to better themselves.

0 Shares

DPS Recall Signatures Submitted

Update: 6,300 signatures have been submitted to city election officials. This amount only factors in that 17% of the signatures might be invalid. Without the use of a voter database system (which costs money) it would be hard to guarantee that this recall will make it to the ballot.

———–

As of the end of business today, 5,363 valid signatures were due in support of the recall of DPS board President Nate Easley. EdNews Colorado had a very informative podcast and article that provide an update on the current situation.

Since I wrote my first post about the recall effort about a month ago, “Take Back Our Schools” and its leader, John McBride, have failed to obtain a bank account (even one that comes with a free iPod) or comply with a single campaign finance deadline. These tactics, particularly running a petition effort without ever listing expenses, drew rebuke when Doug Bruce used them to run a fly-by-night operation and they deserve the same attention in this recall effort. Denver voters deserve transparency as to who is paying for this effort.

Speaking of shady tactics, the podcast interview with reporter Charlie Brennan added to the effort’s disrepute:

Brennan: “On one of (Take Back Our School’s) fliers it is alleged Nate Easley “allowed” 140 African-American teachers to be either suspended or fired in the past year.”

Gottlieb: “And that turns out to be, as far as I can tell, flat-out false.”

Brennan: “No, that does appear to be a flat-out inaccuracy based on the most recent diversity statistics DPS provided to the board June of last year.”

The primary accusation of “Take Back Our Schools” was, again, thoroughly debunked. Proponents claim that Nate Easley’s position as the DPS board president conflicts with his role as Deputy Director of the Denver Schools Foundation since Superintendent Tom Boasberg is an ex-officio member of the board.

Brennan: “(Boasberg) has no vote, no say over the employment status of Nate Easley with DSF. Nate, in turn, tells us, and we’ve seen documented evidence to support this, that… in March of 2009, before he even officially became a candidate for the school board, went to DPS General Council John Kechriotis seeking a legal opinion as to whether Mr. Kechriotis believed there would be a conflict of interest should Nate… seek the seat. The DPS council told Nate that in his opinion there was no conflict of interest. He subsequently privided Nate with a signed affadavit to that effect.”

It will be a bit before the signatures have been validated. If they are, a recall vote will not coincide with the mayoral race and will cost the district over $100,000. The expected date of a potential recall election is likely to be in late June.

0 Shares

CFPI to Pull Ballot Initiatives

It was a beautiful day yesterday, but I opted to stay indoors for a bit to attend one of the State Budget Listening Tour events in Lowry. I had heard that most of the meetings in other parts of the state were well attended. Ours was no exception.

The crowd sounded off to members of the Colorado legislature on a variety of topics; prisons, mental health services, child poverty, medicaid, and above all, the need to raise more revenue. The attendees overwhelmingly agreed that the state is in a systemic, long-term crisis that can only be solved by constitutional reform and shared sacrifice from Colorado’s taxpayers.

Several teachers choked back tears as they talked about class sizes swelling to 38 students and the enormity of the cuts to their districts. Mental health workers described how patients are entering prison in the absence of adequate state services. Even a few Republicans in the crowd were practically begging legislators to avoid cuts to vital services. The town hall was exactly what I expected in the wake of large cuts, though it was still hard to hear some of the stories.

I did not expect to hear what the last speaker, Marijo Rymer, had to say. One of the key proponents for Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute’s ballot measures, she announced that she would be removing all of the proposed ballot measures from the legislative council process. She stated her reasons clearly and concisely; a lack of positive polling, an inability to raise big money and a hostile political climate were all contributing reasons to pull the measures.

It seems inevitable that the most vulnerable of our state have a hard couple of years ahead of them. Sen. Rollie Heath’s attempt to raise $400 million over 3 years seems too meager to back-fill cuts, not worth the effort of a full-fledged campaign and merely a band-aid for long-term fiscal problems. 2012 hardly seems like the year to put a tax hike or constitutional reform on the ballot. The advantages of this year- cheap air time, a short ballot and low turnout- will have disappeared. And once again, Coloradans in favor of sanity will be on the defensive from the sadistic attempts of Jon Caldera to force his misplaced ideological views upon our fair state. God help us.

In the coming years our tax rates, among the lowest in the nation, will clash with our state’s growing need for state services. Colorado’s voters will have to learn one thing the hard way; you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

0 Shares

Civil Union Bill to Face Committee Hearing

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE: Senate Bill 172 passes Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6-3 vote. Republican Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango joins Democrats voting yes.

—–

SB-172, The Colorado Civil Union Act, will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee today. The bill, which would provide crucial protections to same-sex couples, will face stiff opposition as well as strong support from members of the committee.

Polling shows that a solid majority of Coloradans are supportive of civil unions. A PPP poll found that over 70% of the state supports granting civil unions to same sex couples. These findings are almost an exact match to a poll conducted by two national firms, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and American Viewpoint. When asked whether they supported giving legals rights to same-sex couples – marriage-related responsibilities, visiting a partner in the hospital and making end-of-life decisions- respondent’s approval percentages soared into the high 80s.  

Though Republican Sen. Shawn Mitchell has said that this bill is a social issue and that Democrats should be focusing on the economy, a recent study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law predicts that the law would benefit Colorado with an additional $5 million in economic activity over 3 years.

My support for this law stems from an experience I had when a friend’s partner had to be rushed to the hospital with a serious injury. The anxiety, bearaucracy and uncertainty he encountered are things no one should have to put up with when a loved one is in harm’s way.

If you get a chance, stop by the Old Supreme Court Chambers in the capitol at 1:00pm or watch the hearing. OneColorado has encouraged supporters to come wearing red and  “pack the house”.

0 Shares

McBride’s Comments Raise Questions About Recall Effort

(More recall shenanigans. – promoted by Aristotle)

The campaign committee seeking to recall DPS board President Nate Easley failed to file a campaign finance report by the deadline, yesterday. The committee has claimed to be running a full-fledged petitioning operation to gather 5,363 signatures by March 29th. The first report by the committee supporting Easley on Feb. 16th showed $16,275 raised, with no expenses listed.

The comments of John McBride, who registered the committee, should be cause for concern:

“We don’t have any money to file anything,” said John McBride, the lead petitioner in the recall effort against Easley and the registered agent for the committee Take Back Our Schools. “We don’t have a bank account yet. All we have is people power.”

The committee must file a report regardless of whether any money was spent or donated. I find it a little hard to believe that any money supporting the recall has been sitting in a sock drawer since the first filing deadline and that a petitioning effort hasn’t generated any expenses, whatsoever. Petitions, pens, printers, organizers, phones, clipboards, websites and database access can’t be purchased with people power. And if there have been expenses, how are they being tracked without a bank account? The lack of accountability or organization from the committee is shocking.

This comes on the heels of a diary that thoroughly debunked the purported reason behind the recall effort and included proponents of the recall using highly questionable tactics to intimidate bloggers.

The cost of a recall effort may set DPS back about $100,000 if the recall doesn’t coincide with the mayoral election. The district is already facing a $23 million reduction in total program funding next year.

The opponents of the recall include Gov. Hickenlooper and former mayors Frederico Pena and Wellington Webb.

0 Shares

DU Study: Colorado Revenue System Unsustainable

(Read it and weep – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Yesterday, members of DU’s Center for Economic Progress presented their findings from the first comprehensive study of Colorado’s tax system commissioned by the legislature since 1958.

The findings of the study should reinvigorate supporters of a proposed ballot measure. The presenters were adamant that Colorado’s revenue system is wholly unsustainable and needs to be modernized to support a growing need for state services:

  • Reforms of the revenue system

Colorado’s current revenue system could be made more productive and  flexible with measures that broaden revenue bases to capture a larger share of economic activity. This may be accompanied by lower rates and still result in a more productive and equitable revenue system. In addition, reconsidering the earmarking of certain revenues for specific purposes could increase elected officials’ flexibility to deal with changing circumstances in a timely manner.

After the presentation, Sen. Rollie Heath announced he would be presenting a ballot measure that could be referred to voters. The press conference will be Monday, noon, at the state capitol.

The gist of the report: even with the solid economic recovery that is projected to take place, Colorado can’t grow itself out of it’s revenue problems. No matter how many jobs we create or whether we create a “pro-business” atmosphere, budget problems will continue to plague the state until long-term, structural changes are made to our revenue system.

The researchers characterized Colorado’s revenue system as the most volatile of all 50 states.

Here are they key points from the summary of the preliminary report:


The long-term, persistent structural imbalance between General Fund revenues and expenditures will not be corrected without structural solutions. Below are the policy directions we have identified and will pursue further in the next phase of the project:

  • A long-term planning approach to complement the annual budget process. Structural problems take years to develop; they will not be resolved overnight or during a single budget process. A long-term plan should address the persistent fiscal imbalance. It would be adjusted as necessary when economic circumstances and policy decisions exert different pressures on revenue and expenditure trends.
  • Budget rules that address the volatility of revenue streams. Given Colorado’s volatile tax structure, the management of state finances requires an explicit recognition of that volatility and rules for managing it. A budget stabilization fund would capture revenues generated during unusually large upswings and save it to cover shortfalls that result from large negative swings.
  • A redefinition of the state-local partnership for funding schools or a new way to fund schools. Tax-base erosion under the Gallagher Amendment, property tax limits imposed by the school finance act and TABOR, and the mandated cost increases of Amendment 23 have shifted the burden of funding K-12 education substantially to state resources. The partnership between state and local revenues should be rebalanced or Colorado should consider a new way to pay for public schools.
  • Strategies to address programs, particularly Medicaid, which grow faster than revenues. As Colorado’s large baby boom cohort ages, the state will experience slower per-household revenue growth coupled with greater Medicaid expenses. Strategies include planning for cost increases, more cost-effective ways to deliver Medicaid services and ways to improve the productivity of current revenues.
  • Stable and permanent funding sources for transportation, capital needs and controlled maintenance. In the long term, the General Fund cannot provide surplus funding for transportation, capital needs and controlled maintenance. Other financing mechanisms will need to be identified.

The report’s findings mirror those of a similar report by the Buechner Institute of Governance at the School of Public Affairs, CU Denver. While there may be agreement around the problems with Colorado’s budget, concensus is far from being reached on any solutions.  

0 Shares

DU Tax Study Turning Point for State Budget Conversation

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

TUESDAY addition

1) Pretend for a minute we had no tax code, no existing system of tax assessment and collection. Pretend also that you are preincarnated – you will be a Colorado resident, but you have no idea if you will own half the water in the state, or be a homeless guy under a bridge.  How would you design the tax code?

2) Read this.

http://coloradopols.com/showDi…

3) Tune in  Friday as the 21st century in Colorado begins.

TUESDAY POLS UPDATE: We just got word that this hearing has been moved from LSB-A to the Old Supreme Court Chambers by popular demand, and it is open to the public. Friday at 1:30PM.

—–

Several recent diaries have ignited conversations around Colorado’s tax system, support of state institutions and Governor Hickenlooper’s assertion that “there isn’t an appetite” for a ballot initiative that overhauls our state’s tax system. The size of the cuts to the state budget- $375 million to K-12 and $36 million to higher education- should spur conversation about our priorities and what kind of future we want for our state.

In 2010, the state legislature commissioned a non-partisan, all-inclusive study of Colorado’s tax system. Among other things, the study must determine,”…the relationship of state and local taxes to the long-term economic growth and prosperity of the state.” EdNews Colorado notes that the study,”…is billed as the first comprehensive look at state and local taxes since 1958 “.

Needless to say, the findings of this report are critically important for a state that is looking for ways to create long-term job growth and esssential for lawmakers weighing the Governor’s proposed cuts. They also mark a pivotal moment for supporters of a possible ballot initiative aimed at raising revenue.

This Friday researchers from DU will be presenting their findings. In an ironic twist, the researchers will be presenting their report to state legislators, none of whom have the ability to levy taxes in Colorado.

Governor Hickenlooper’s statement at the presentation of his budget to the Joint Budget Committee and his interview with Colorado Public Radio were at odds with the preponderance of Democratic lawmakers, many of whom were urging him to look at the “revenue side of the equation”. Most of his remarks to the JBC were directed towards his main message, that Colorado become a more “pro-business” state.

If the researchers have found there is no need for revenue, a possible ballot initiative could be dead in the water. With a tough political and economic climate, the opposition of a credible study and without a nod from the Governor, it would be hard to see how a ballot initiative would be possible. Such a finding could reinvigorate Republican’s efforts to cut from the budget and reinstate tax credits.

This could bode well for a strategy that demonstrates to Colorado’s voters that they can’t receive adequate service from the state government while paying taxes that are among the lowest in the country. On the other hand, this strategy may draw anger from progressives who desire a more principled stand on budget cuts that disproportionately effect education.

However, if the study recommends revenue increases that are deemed imperative to the long-term economic health of the state, it could serve as an opportunity for Democrats to redefine the conversation about taxes and job creation. Though any revenue increase would need to be approved by the voters, a finding similar to that of the Higher Education Strategic Planning committee could signal a growing concensus among business and policy leaders that the state is in need of new revenue and constitutional reform. It also might be hard for Governor Hickenlooper to simultaneously brush off  recommendations by the study and maintain  a “pro-business” image.

I expect much of the study to focus on the gordian knot that ties the hands of state legislators and creates an unsustainable situation for governance of the state. A large range of topics will be covered and I’ll be back to summarize the main points after the hearing. There are no easy solutions to  our current budget crisis, complex constitution or restrictive tax laws . Whatever the findings, there could not be a better time for Colorado to take a long-term approach to tax policy.

Cross Posted @ Squarestate

0 Shares

Elimination of State Support for Higher Ed Possible in 2011

(Drowning in the bathtub yet? – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado’s hopes of sustaining funding to our K-12, and especially our higher education system, have been eviscerated with the release of September’s revenue forecasts from the Legislative Council and Office of State Planning and Budgeting. $257 million in cuts are expected this fiscal year. Just nine short months away, we face more than $1 billion in cuts to our state government.

The problem is there is nowhere to cut. If you don’t believe me, try balancing the budget yourself. $4.4 billion has been cut from our state budget since the start of the Great Recession. When speaking on a funding allocation that the Colorado Commission on Higher Education would send to the legislature, Commissioner Greg Stevinson wanted to send a message, “that we just can’t take any more cuts….We’re cut to the bone.”

For someone who pays close attention to our state budget, every year feels like “Groundhog Day”. Our state, more than any other, significantly relied on federal stimulus dollars to back-fill our higher education budget. With the cessation of Stimulus dollars and a billion dollar shortfall, the 2011-12 fiscal year could eliminate all state support for higher education. This is a foregone conclusion if Amendments 60, 61 or Proposition 101 pass. Our state’s constitutional funding mandates have made higher education the prime target for cuts. If the last decade set any precedence for what the legislature will do, students and families can expect the cost of higher education shift to them.

Colorado’s support for higher education is already dismal. We are dead last in the nation in the funding of public four-year colleges. Since 1980, state support for higher education has decreased 70 percent. Per $1000 dollars of income, Coloradans pay $3.20 towards higher education, compared to a national average of $12.28. (View the HESP draft and background material for in-depth statistics)

There could not be a worse time to reduce state support for higher education. Thousands of workers have taken shelter in in our state’s institutions to weather the economy and retrain.

All of our gubernatorial candidates have expressed that there “is not an appetite for tax increases”. I have heard this same sentiment echoed from many legislators. This may be true, but if we do drastically decrease our support for education in Colorado, we do so at our economic peril.

The committee created to develop a long-term plan for higher education has recommended exactly the opposite:

The Degree Dividend: Building our economy and preserving our quality of life

If you get a chance, read this draft. It coherently makes an economic argument that higher education is essential to Colorado’s future. It also lays out possible revenue streams. From the introduction, “We believe our decisions on higher education- how we fund it and what we demand of it- will be key to our future, now more than ever…Without changing the course of our state is now on, we are destined for a future that we don’t want. We need to invest more.”

This state desperately needs adults of all political stripes to come together and find a solution to our budget crisis. Any intelligent person who has read our revenue forecast can tell that we need new revenue in order to keep our state’s services afloat. Try cutting $1.2 billion from our state budget. Can you honestly say that we don’t need new revenue?

Our new Governor and Legislature will have difficult choices to make the minute they step into office. If they cede to what is politically safe, our state’s ability to compete economically will be impeded at the worst time possible.

Cross posted at Square State

0 Shares