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Some bills make it ... some don’t

We’re headed into the home stretch of the legislative session’s 120 days.

Legislators are trying to move their bills that have gotten stuck in the process and some bills just aren’t going to make it through to become law this year.

A few of those unsuccessful bills are mine, such as curtailing the practice of taking severance tax funds to fill budget holes, restoring an important tort reform measure that the Colorado Supreme Court changed this past year, and adopting a resolution that would have the Colorado legislature and Congress swearing off unfunded mandates. While disappointed that some of my bills weren’t yet adopted, I’m a pragmatist and realize that real change is often more incremental than immediate.

The budget for this next year is close to completion, lacking only finishing touches and the governor’s likely signature. This session was unique among the five I’ve been in as every legislator who wanted to be involved in the budget discussions could be.

Traditionally, the budget is tightly controlled by the six-member Joint Budget Committee (JBC). This year, probably due to the enormity of the task involving many unpopular cuts to make and partly because they wanted greater involvement of the whole body, the JBC shared the weighty responsibility of arriving at the budget.

Were there squabbles and posturing along the way? Certainly.

Are any of the 100 Colorado legislators completely satisfied with the budget as it is? Speaking for myself, I can tell you, definitely not.

But, the openness of the budget process this session and the fact that a bipartisan budget emerged after the wrangling is a good sign of what can be accomplished, even in very difficult times. I credit this success to the quite new members of the JBC, who collectively showed a maturity and understanding of political process that I’ve not seen before, and also to those of us who wanted to be participants, rather than spectators, in getting to a balanced budget. I suspect this scene is playing out similarly in many of our state legislatures.

I’m very pleased to let you know that I was nominated last week to join the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Federal Deficit Reduction Task Force. This is an exciting honor and opportunity for me to engage in the national discussion, from the states’ perspective, on how our country comes to grips with the very real and present danger of our national deficit.

We’ll be evaluating and providing input on the various approaches to reducing the federal debt and the implications of these strategies on state governments. I’ll keep you informed through future columns as to how the work is going.

Perhaps if the members of Congress are paying attention to what’s happening at home in their states, we’ll see some of the same budgetary progress in Washington, D.C. The magnitude of dollars involved between the states and federal budgets is different, but the task and tough choices are essentially the same. We must learn to live within our means.

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