Fiscal structural problems are in the Constitution

Like the Energizer bunny, the Legislature keeps going and going and going.

Earlier, it was predicted that we’d be done by May 1, but that’s not to be. There are few days left and then we’ll be adjourned, no matter what. Bills that haven’t made their way through the sausage making process will have to wait until next year.

I’m happy to report that my bills are passed, with a few left to be signed by the governor or they’ll go into law if he chooses to let them go unsigned. I sponsored a couple of bills in the areas of juvenile justice and health care as well as one each on the youth council, the probate code and domestic violence assistance organizational boards. I also had a few bills with Sen. Isgar on agricultural and water projects and the merger of Pueblo Community College and San Juan Basin Technical College.

While my bills affecting my district went well, I remain concerned about the state’s economy. We’ll soon feel the budget cuts and many fee increases that were passed. Just enough cuts were made to get to a balanced budget this year. Yet, when all is said and done, we also added financial burdens to our state’s fiscal future without knowing where we are in the recession cycle and how long it will take to move out of this recession. We expanded too many programs and added new state employees when we shouldn’t have.

I didn’t support repealing the 6 percent spending limit or raising a number of fees such as those on vehicles or hospital beds. Some may fairly ask if I suggested or supported solutions in place of those that I objected to. I offered an alternative to the sponsors of the repeal of the spending limit that left the limit in place overall, but got rid of the ratchet effect and built the state’s rainy day fund. It was rejected, without serious consideration or discussion.

Did I vote “no” on the repeal because of that rejection? No, I voted “no” on SB228 because I think the bill was like winning the battle, but losing the war. The fiscal structural problems are in the Constitution, but there’s not likely enough political capital or will left after this to address those any time soon.

Work is hard to find for many right now. Job hours and salaries are being trimmed back. We don’t know what the future holds and, judging from many whom I have heard from and my own sense of trepidation, we should prepare for the worst and hope for the best. With new programs and increased payroll expenses, we’ve added to the public’s cynicism that state government won’t do what the average family is now forced to do — that is, cut back.

Besides budget woes, there’ve been many controversial bills that were passed this session. Some I supported, some I didn’t. People will become more aware of those as they go into effect. I found myself voting no on a lot more bills this year, but, unlike a recent newspaper editorial board claimed, it wasn’t due to party pressure. I didn’t think the bills were good for my district and many of you told me so as well.

That it was suggested that I play party politics in my voting, even on a couple of bills, got chuckles and headshakes of disbelief from people at the Capitol. It might’ve earned me some street cred with the more partisan types, if only they believed it. Newspapers are entitled to their opinions, of course, but it’s too bad some don’t know me better than that.

It’s been a difficult session on a number of levels, but I worked hard and am proud of what I was able to get done, particularly in these tough times. My columns will now switch to monthly as we move into the interim.