Guest Columns

KING: RITTER FIDDLES WITH ACCOUNTING WHILE ECONOMY BURNS

Colorado can succeed only when businesses in the state succeed

With each day that passes, Western Slope businesses have more and more reason to be concerned about the economic environment that the Democrats and Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration are leading us into.

Unemployment is at nearly 9 percent in Mesa County, severance revenues have dropped by a whopping 82 percent, drilling permit applications in Colorado have declined by more than 90 percent from last year, home foreclosure activity is up by more than 80 percent in our county, Colorado’s personal income growth has dropped from 10th to 35th nationally, and job losses are the worst we’ve seen in this state in more than 65 years.

Yet — at a time when Mesa County families are making tough choices to make ends meet — Ritter’s “solution” to these problems has been to impose draconian restrictions on oil and gas drilling, to raise taxes and fees by $1 billion and to approve a record-breaking state budget that has left the state almost $400 million in the red.

The tax-and-fee free-for-all that was this year’s legislative session underscores a simple fact: State government in general, and the Ritter administration in particular, have no concept of the key to success for our state. A strong leader with vision would know that Colorado will be successful only when Colorado businesses are successful. And that means all Colorado businesses — not just the politically privileged ones who have a seat at Ritter’s ideological table.

Rather than growing our economy, Ritter seems to believe his primary job is to grow government. This has been demonstrated by the addition of 4,000 new full-time state employees since he took office — and a tripling of the size of the governor’s staff alone.

Adding to the Colorado’s fiscal problems is the Ritter administration’s decision to spend the state’s emergency reserves, along with “one time” federal fiscal stimulus money to pay for permanently expanding social programs that Democrats lack the political courage to rein in.

Then there’s his use of accounting gimmicks — like pushing the June payroll date for state workers forward one day (into the next fiscal year) to effectively “refinance” millions of dollars of this year’s debt into next year’s budget. It is the kind of accounting that would make Enron blush. I seriously doubt Ritter’s Department of Revenue would allow Coloradans who don’t have enough money to pay their taxes this year to use the same kind of creative accounting.

Democrats, unwilling to reduce spending, say we must close Colorado’s budget gap. They tell us that running deficits with taxpayer money is irresponsible and that we must raise taxes because we have a “revenue shortfall.” But the government isn’t swimming in red ink because taxes are too low. The government is swimming in red ink because politicians in Denver are spending too much.

Former Colorado governor and iconic statesman Ralph Carr put it even more succinctly: “The best way to save taxpayer money is to stop spending taxpayer money.”

Colorado needs to have strong fiscal discipline, resolve to live within its means and cut its budget like every other business in this state. It needs to make true reductions in spending — not just move money around, raid
trust funds or burn the proverbial furniture to heat the house in the vain hope that things are going to magically get better.

State government must come to terms with the fact that government exists to help every Colorado business and citizen be successful in our state. We are a free people that has a government, not the other way around.

We cannot tax, fee or spend our way out of this mess. Government programs and wealth redistribution schemes are not solutions to our fiscal woes. Recovery will come only when the Ritter administration spends less, taxes less and reins in the overbearing bureaucracy that is smothering the entrepreneurial energy that makes our economy work.

Republican Steve King, of Grand Junction, a former complex-crimes investigator for the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, has represented HD 54 since 2007.