Guest Columns

NEILSON: AND NOW YOU KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY?

Long-term Fiscal Stability Commission, run by Democrats, was a real charade

As a member of the state Long-term Fiscal Stability Commission, more aptly named by the minority the Long-term Fiscal Irresponsibility Commission, here is the “rest of the story” from my view.

The commission was a charade, with a predetermined agenda and outcomes set by the chairman, Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder. The charade encompassed 11 meetings where commissioners were inundated with special interest groups and state bureaucrats’ claims of underfunded everything. Colorado citizens were relegated to one afternoon to make their claims of “not enough” or “too much.”

Commissioners had no input into the agendas and were not privy to instructions given to those who presented to the commission. It was clear, however, that the instructions were to declare their wish list in a perfect world.

The commission failed miserably in its mission. The recommendations from the commission —all crafted by the Democrat majority — do nothing to address the real issue of strategic planning for the long term. Instead, the meetings were simply an opportunity for the state bureaucrats to come forward with requests for more dollars for each of their fiefdoms, the big six: K-12 education, higher education, health care policy and financing, corrections, human services and judicial. Their Christmas wish list was an additional $9.271 BILLION more to be anted up by us taxpayer suckers! It was clear at the outset that the predetermined outcome of the commission was to craft a “crisis” and come forward with its main recommendation — to establish a “Fiscal Policy Constitutional Commission” to consist of unelected and unaccountable appointees to reach the conclusion that TABOR must go.

The other bills coming out of the commission are more Democrat “act like we did something” bills: 1) allow more flexibility to institutions of higher education but not when it comes to setting tuition; 2) ask DU to do an “impartial” tax study (DU gave the recommendation for the Constitutional Commission and also gave us Referendum O); 3) set up a rainy day fund that will never get funded; 4) encourage private/public partnerships with nonprofits. Partnerships with the business sector were sadly missing. Can you see how any of these address long-term fiscal stability for our state?

The elephant in the room, “spending,” was avoided like the plague! Any mention of too much spending fell on deaf ears! The Democrat majority had no stomach for saving.

“We just don’t have the dollars right now,” they all opined. Of course, they never will. The committee chairman, Sen. Heath, scolded Colorado citizens for accepting TABOR refunds while, he decreed, those dollars would have made a sizeable Rainy Day Fund. Does any sane individual believe that had it not been for us greedy taxpayers taking refunds, the Legislature would have a $3 billion rainy day fund today? I have been watching the Legislature for the past 20-some years, and, Republican or Democrat controlled, it has never mustered up any stomach for saving. The cry is always for more dollars from taxpayers.

The 2009 election emphasized once again that Colorado taxpayers take seriously their right to vote on tax increases. The stunning defeat of tax increase measures in Greeley, Aurora, Colorado Springs and even liberal Boulder sends a message to the governor and his tax-and-spend majorities in the House and Senate. Families and businesses across Colorado are hurting. They must rethink priorities and adjust their budgets accordingly. Colorado government should be required to do the same. Colorado citizens are amused by the $9.271 billion Christmas wish list as they attempt to provide food and shelter for their families. Providing core functions — safety, infrastructure and education — is the government’s responsibility, not attempting to be all things to all people.

Implement priority-based budgeting with measured outcomes.

Attack ever-growing Medicaid spending by first conducting a full-fledged audit to smoke out fraud.

Look to the successes of other states that have reformed their Medicaid systems, saved dollars, and provided better service to recipients.

Competition in education would save dollars and give better results.

It’s the spending!

Marty Neilson, a Boulder Republican, is president of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers and a member of the Long-term Fiscal Stability Commission.