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DENVER – Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, may have understated the obvious last week when the subject of the state budget came up in an e-mail exchange. “It will …
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DENVER – Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, may have understated the obvious last week when the subject of the state budget came up in an e-mail exchange.
“It will certainly be another interesting budget year,” he said.
The Legislature has to find $384 million in budget cuts. Tax revenues are dropping more than expected.
For his part, Priola knows what should be done.
“The first step that must be taken is to stop adding to the cost of government and to stop spending money that the state simply doesn’t have,” he said. “The Legislature this year added 1,400 new employees to the state payroll, and the governor just last month announced the creation of a new high-paid administrative position in his department.”
The head of the Joint Budget Committee told lawmakers the cuts could include taking back Lottery proceeds, shifting programs between county and state agencies and closing some state parks.
State Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, declined to say what she thought could be trimmed or preserved.
“I’ll save my ‘must saves’ and ‘must cuts’ until we get into the actual budget process next January,” she said.
A state hiring freeze ended last month. Priola wants it extended.
“As far as specific programs, we should look at the taxpayer-funded broadcasting of the House floor proceedings, a recently added cost and something not done in the Senate,” Priola said.
The House proceedings are available on Comcast Channel 165.
“We should also eliminate unnecessary travel reimbursement programs and look at overhead expenses in departments like higher education, which hired more than 1,000 employees this year despite the recession, and cuts to the higher education budget.”
Priola also thinks the governor should “closely” examine department level suggestions to eliminate programs.
“Those recommendations should include programs both large and small, and each will be reviewed on its merits,” he said. “While making those decisions, we need to maintain services in Colorado that help our most vulnerable populations, including low income children and those struggling with disabilities. We also must keep our promises to our firefighters, policemen and veterans.”
A two-day seminar at the Capitol outlined the state’s financial problems. Hodge, who listened in during the first day of the discussion, said there was some agreement.
“Consensus seemed to be that there is a need to figure out what we want the state to look like, find out what it would cost to make the state look that way and figure out how to fund it,” she said. “The 16-member panel (the legislative commission in financial stability) is very diverse. There are some very conservative people represented (Jonathan Coors, Marty Nielsen of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, Amy Oliver of the Independence Institute, Sen. Greg Brophy). There are some very liberal legislators on it (Sen. Rollie Heath, Rep. Lois Court) and a whole bunch of people for whom I didn’t get a political feel.
“Timothy Hume, a farmer and a banker, probably said it best when he suggested they get beyond ideology and get to work solving the problem. I came away feeling optimistic.”
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