Saturday, January 17, 2009

State and Local Budgets

The State of Colorado has to trim over $600 million from its budget. The worst case scenario is to lop off 10% across the board, which would save $800 million. The next year after this one is predicted to be even worse. Because the budget year runs from July 1st to June 31st, legislators have less than six months to jiggle around items for the chopping block. Dire stories will be printed in the next couple of months saying how everything from meals for homebound senior citizens to jail cells for stone cold murderers may be affected.

New State Gop Senate Caucas leader, Josh Penry, after paying lip service to protesting any new energy development regulations, let the Senate know where the main emphasis will be for the Republicans in the coming year. The emphasis is on infrastructure and they want to get a quick start on it, borrowing from the rhetoric of Barack Obama. It's a good plan, one that has been neglected and definitely should have been done yesterday.

"A day earlier, Penry had joined House GOP leader Mike May, of Parker, in announcing a proposal to fund Colorado's critical transportation infrastructure needs without new taxes or onerous fees. The plan would make use of existing equity in government assests, such as buildings, to borrow the much-needed cash to repair and maintain Colorado's roads and bridges. Penry and May pointed to many other state and local governments who used the same to fund large capital construction projects.
"Under the arcane rules of our budget, our roads and bridges receive the last dollar of General Fund when times are good, and they are the first funding victim when times turn bad," Penry said. "Let’s not use a bad economy as an excuse for continuing to treat our roads and bridges as a second-class budget priority."

I hope it works because the roads here are badly maintained, and the repair jobs I've witnessed here have done nothing to improve the road problems, all cosmetic patches and sprayed tar which buckle up during the first snow and surface contractions. Its soo bad, I wonder if we haven't imported road crews from Texas to be in charge...

The larger municipalities are being hit harder, with Denver facing a $56 million dollar gap, and Colorado Springs down to a measly $6 million deficit. Still, it could affect anything from efficient staffing of police patrols to ticketing massage parlors and people who can't remove snow from their sidewalks. What may be needed is a lesson in how to prioritize, to win brownie points with the people who essentially are paying your salaries. Instead, the usual whipping posts like the bad old teacher's unions, or labeling people and programs as socialistic, or government being too large will be trotted out for public flogging, which we can expect from old school diehards like Bob Beauprez... 

A while back the governors submitted a wish list and plea to the Federal government for financial help. Reporters were gleefully amazed that there was a huge list of pork projects attached, and had fun publicizing some of the more blatantly weird ones. A stripped down, amended list has not been resubmitted, which makes me wonder how serious theses states are about balancing their budgets. Luckily for us, neither ex-Senator Ted Stevens or Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich were involved.

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