Grantham Chides Governor for Road Funding Fumble

Denver — The opening move in Colorado’s annual state budget process came Wednesday, with the release of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s final budget proposal as chief executive, which weighed in at a whopping $30.5 billion, making it the biggest budget request in state history.

And while Senate President Kevin J. Grantham (R-Canon-City) saw some things to like in the blueprint, including the Governor’s decision not to seek a taxpayer bailout of the state’s financially troubled public employee pension fund, along with signs that explosive growth in the state’s costly Medicaid program might be leveling off, he took issue with a number of flaws and omissions.

The budget’s most obvious problem, said Grantham, is that Hickenlooper again this year failed to direct a single general fund dollar toward the state’s mounting road and bridge maintenance backlog, despite broad bipartisan recognition that this is an issue Colorado must come to grips with. 

“Given all the rhetoric we’re heard in recent years about the urgent need to fix Colorado’s crumbling roads, including from this governor, I’m shocked that he couldn’t find room in a $30 billion-plus budget to devote one general fund dollar to this top budget priority,” said Grantham. “It just demonstrates, again, that Democrats will talk the talk on addressing the state’s infrastructure problems, but won’t walk the walk by putting real money where their mouths are.”

“Obviously the public has no appetite for raising taxes to pay for a long-term road fix, so we must find a way to use existing funds if we want to get started on a solution,” added Grantham. “Republicans believe we can do that, and indeed must do that, even if it requires making hard choices, but Democrats obviously have other priorities and intend to keep using roads as pawns in a cynical game of fiscal chicken.”

Grantham also expressed displeasure with the fact that almost every department and budget category enjoys a funding hike in Hickenlooper’s proposal, despite a bipartisan request from the legislature that most state agencies come forward this year with at least 2% in proposed budget cuts.

“Lawmakers who approved SB-267 sent a clear bipartisan signal to the governor that they expected most state agencies to look for ways to decrease funding levels, so that we might look for offsets elsewhere in the budget if we decide to devote general fund dollars to roads and bridges,” said Grantham, “but the Governor’s budget thumbs its nose at the legislature’s request and includes nearly across-the-board spending increases, indicating an unwillingness to look for ways to economize and reprioritize.”

Grantham acknowledged that nothing in SB-267 compels Hickenlooper to comply with the budget reduction idea, but he believes the Governor’s evident disregard for the clear intent of the General Assembly doesn’t strike a helpful or constructive note as the budget debate begins.

 

Please direct media inquiries to Sean Paige at 719-337-0355.

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