Education funding and politics also torpedoed JBC budget bill in 1986

The Colorado Statesman

During the past week, in discussing the possibility that the Senate would introduce its own budget bill, Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, and others, referenced the last time the Long Appropriations Bill came out under the sponsorship of someone other than the JBC was about 20 years ago.

But exactly when that was? No one seemed to know.

It has happened, and it was exactly 25 years ago this year, and what divided the House and Senate is partly the same thing that divided the House and Senate this year.

Education funding.

In 1986, the Joint Budget Committee was led by Republicans Rep. Bob Kirscht, chair, and Sen. Cliff Dodge, vice-chair. But the House and Senate were at an impasse over the Long Bill, according to Kirscht, over education funding.

Kirscht told The Colorado Statesman that the House wanted a lower figure for K-12 funding, about $55 million less, than what the Senate wanted. Had an agreement been reached, the bill would have come out of the House under Kirscht, as chair of JBC. But that agreement never happened.

Instead, as was threatened this week, the Senate came up with its own Long Bill. In 1986, it was under the sponsorship of Dodge and fellow Republican Sen. Steve Durham of Colorado Springs, now a long-time capitol lobbyist, and who was not on the JBC.

Durham said this week he was drafted into co-sponsoring the bill. “I could never say no to Cliff,” he quipped. “I was innocent!”

But there’s more to the story.

While there was an impasse on K-12 funding that year, there were some major political considerations in play. Dodge noted that Senate President Ted Strickland, Kirscht and Colorado Springs developer Steve Schuck, were all running for the Republican nomination for governor that year, a race eventually won by then-State Treasurer Roy Romer, Democrat. Dodge and Durham were backing Kirscht against the Senate President in that primary race.

Dodge said TWO long bills were actually introduced in the 1986 session — and the one signed into law by Gov. Richard Lamm was the Dodge-Durham bill. The official session laws for the 1986 General Assembly do not include Durham’s name as a final Senate sponsor of the long bill; however, Dodge is listed as the only Senate sponsor of that year’s budget bill, along with more than a dozen House members as sponsors in that chamber, including Kirscht and fellow JBC member Rep. Elwood Gillis. Not on the bill: JBC Senate members Jim Beatty and Father John Beno, and House member Wilma Webb.

And in a remark sure to cause heartburn for the current General Assembly, Dodge told The Statesman that in 1986, the Senate caucused for three weeks over the Long Bill, adding (and to no surprise), “It was awful.” Durham recalls that House members paraded through the halls with signs that said, “Free the Senate!”

Marianne@coloradostatesman.com