April 12, 2011
1. My SIP Bill
2. Third Annual Loveland Tax Day Tea Party
3. Long Bill Debate and Vote
1. On Friday I introduced SB-237, concerning the SIP (State Implementation Plan) for controlling haze. This bill modifies the SIP submitted by the Public Utilities Commission in January. The bill also calls for a clear and transparent examination of what the SIP will cost and what effect it will actually have on the haze in Colorado. I want the people to have all of the facts clearly presented in public testimony. The bill is scheduled for a hearing in State Affairs on April 25. I am certain I will report more in the coming weeks on this important matter that involves hundreds of millions of utility rate payers’ dollars.
2. On Saturday, April 16, from 3:00 to 6:00 PM the third annual Loveland Tax Day Tea Party will be held. This year it will be at the Hammond Amphitheater, just North of Lake Loveland. I will be there, I hope you can join us.
3. The budget debate dominated the Senate last week, culminating in the final (third reading) vote on Monday morning. A series of bills were bundled together to comprise the final, negotiated product. I supported most of the bills, but did vote against the Long Bill (the actual budget bill.)
In many ways the budget debate in Washington D.C., that we have all been watching has been somewhat parallel to our process here in Denver. The Republicans control the House, the Democrats have everything else. People across the political spectrum are starting to demand we live within our means, forcing the big government advocates to finally compromise some of their programs and budgets.
From my perspective, being a part of the minority in the Senate, it was good to have some say in the process and see a limited amount of success.
These are the comments I gave to the Senate during the third reading debate on the Long Bill:
The budget package before us today is a good start, and I applaud the hard work that has gotten us this far. In my nine years in the legislature, this is the best budget I have seen.
Our reserve is scheduled to be restored to the 4% level. For the first time in a long time we are trying to stay away from fee-based cash funds to help balance a tight budget. The Ag And Software Taxes, put in place last year, are to be phased out. The vendor fee, taken away from retail businesses two years ago, at a cost of thousands of jobs, is finally being phased back in. Overall the state is reducing some 750 full-time government employees.
These are great steps forward for the people of Colorado.
Nonetheless I shall be a no vote on the Long Bill.
What we have before us today is a compromise between widely disparate views on a multitude of issues. To the credit of the majority party, you did come to the table and help negotiate a meeting in the middle. We have, I am sure, the best we can contrive, given the political realities we have here under the Gold Dome.
Yet, I am voting no because we should and, could still do so much more.
Colorado has as much, and, I believe, even more potential than any other state in the Union. We are blessed with rich natural resources, including vast energy reserves. Our agriculture is strong and productive. High-tech continues to march forward creating 21st century industries no one even dreamed possible a few decades ago. And, we live in Colorado. The majestic beauty of our state continues to attract people from around the world. The energy, optimism, and creative talent of the citizens of Colorado is remarkable.
The people of this great state should have the very best in government, but even with the best budget in at least a decade, we continue to plod on with too many tired, big-government systems that we cannot afford and we have more intrusive regulations than our liberties can endure.
We need substantial, structural change in our state’s government. Today’s budget reflects a few, small steps, but I still look forward to the day we tackle the big issues that continue to hold us back.
We need competitive, free market systems in medicine that put the decisions and the responsibilities directly into the hands of individuals and their doctor. In medicine, far too often there are no serious competitive dynamics to drive costs down to where the average citizen can afford to go to the doctor.
Free market medicine means state and Federal mandates go away. Citizens should be allowed to buy insurance from any state in the Union. Tort reform must release doctors from a constant fear of spending more of their time and money in the court room than in their own clinic. Alternatives to traditional insurance, like cost sharing programs and health savings accounts must be promoted, and not regulated out of existence. Additionally, alternative modalities of care and treatment should be allowed and encouraged. Our medical systems should not be hung up with rigid laws and regulations that drive up costs and sometimes hold back the best and latest discoveries for good health.
We also need cost saving reforms in education. Policies that promote all educational options, both public and private, as well as policies that honor parents’ fundamental authority and responsibility for their children’s education. These structural changes will increase educational opportunities and yield significant savings for our state’s budget.
Time does not allow a full discussion, but structural changes are also needed in our prison system, transportation funding, PERA, higher education, Medicaid, severance taxes, rainy-day funds, property taxes, and many other areas.
We have to control our state government’s insatiable desire to spend more money than it brings in. Particularly in these tough times we need fiscal sanity and just plain common sense put back into in our budget.
I will continue to push for these vitally needed reforms. Part of that push is voting no on SB-209.
Again, I applaud the leadership on both sides of the isle for all that has been accomplished with SB-209. Some progress can be seen, but government must be brought back to its proper jurisdiction and government must live within its means. When I see a budget proposed, including the related measures that make the structural changes, I will wholeheartedly support that bud