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Tough work — balancing the budget

Balancing this year’s budget!

That was the big issue this past week in the Legislature. We have to cut $300 million.

Why? Because those who set the budget last year underestimated revenue by that amount, and now we must make more cuts.

Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the Colorado Constitution requires that the Legislature balance the budget. The Joint Budget Committee has been working on this since early December, and last week submitted its proposals to the Legislature for every state department.

The supplemental budget bills went to the Senate first and, except for a few amendments, were adopted and sent to the House where they were adopted with a few amendments. These bills will now go to a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and the Senate. I voted for all of the bills as amended. Almost every department will have a 1 percent across-the-board cut. It will be painful for everyone. The bill that transferred severance tax money to balance the budget was especially hard.

Governor Hickenlooper also came out with his recommendations for the 2011-2012 budget. Democrats were very fast to criticize his proposals and, ironically, Republicans praised him for his courage and realistic and honest appraisal of the budget.

House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said, “We have said that these challenging economic times call for bold leadership and an ability to make the same tough decisions that Colorado families and employers have been making. We appreciate the Governor’s willingness to tackle the state budget in a way that begins to address the long-term structural issues, and we look forward to working with him on specifics.”

I agree and appreciate Gov. Hickenlooper’s business?experience and his ability to see the challenges of Colorado’s employers and families.

Governor Hickenlooper had offered the invitation to legislators to sit down and talk. I took him up on his offer. We met in his office, and I was impressed with his warmness and openness. When he found out that I am a sheep and wool producer, he was particularly interested. He has been introduced to a company in Steamboat Springs that makes world-renowned wool socks. The company evidently imports their wool from New Zealand, and the governor sees no reason not to use Colorado wool. I could not agree more. Using Colorado products here and adding value will create jobs, expand the tax base and help us balance the budget.

Governor Hickenlooper is also focusing on red tape in government. He uses the example of his own restaurant where he wanted to expand, which would result in more jobs for more people. The expansion was held up for an extended period because an existing guardrail was a few inches too high. His point is, let’s use a little common sense in government and try to work things out and not make unreasonable requests of business. Governments, local, state and federal, need to consider their roadblocks to a better economy for easier budgeting.

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