Colorado’s Budget – Cuts, Raids, and Band-aids, but no Solutions

The Colorado legislature introduced the proposed state budget, SB09-259, the long bill, on Monday, April 6th. The bill includes budget cuts across the board, but the largest impact is on the state’s funding of higher education.

Colorado already ranks 49th in the nation on higher education spending, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. On top of that, the long bill proposes to cut $300 million from state higher education funding, further deflating a sinking system.

Higher education is the biggest, but by no means the only, function of state government to be a victim of the state’s budget crisis. The only solution, besides cutting funding and raising vehicle registration fees, that the legislature has proposed is to raid the surplus funds of a privately run workers’ compensation fund, Pinnacol Assurance.

Through SB09-273 the legislature has proposed taking (that’s a soft way of saying raiding or stealing) $500,000,000 from Pinnacol’s surplus funds. The bill, if it passes, will require Pinnacol to transfer the money to the state treasurer by September 1, 2009.

The legislature is going even further with SB09-281, following the federal government’s example, and attempting to remove private control of the fund. The bill would eliminate the authority of Pinnacol’s executives and board of directors and transfer that authority to the state. Pinnacol’s response is available at http://www.pinnacol.com/2009-legislation.

The only rationale behind this raid is that Pinnacol has money and the state doesn’t. The state is going after a successful privately run organization and penalizing it for doing what the state has failed to do- maintain a rainy-day fund to deal with economic catastrophes. The state is removing control from people who have proven success and giving control to the people who have guided Colorado into this budget emergency.

It would be easy to pass this off as the Democrats’ effort to expand government and force their hand on private enterprise. But, it’s much more troubling than mere partisan politics. These bills would reward the short-sightedness of Colorado’s past and present elected officials.

Visit Project Vote Smart to find contact information for Colorado public officials to urge them to support the rights of private business and to encourage the legislature to pursue permanent solutions that will promote efficient, cost-effective government.

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