By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
A Republican state lawmaker has introduced legislation that would prohibit the state from using public money to promote stimulus projects with signs.
Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial, is tired of seeing signs on state roads and highways promoting projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The signs read, “Putting America To Work.”
There are about 100 projects in Colorado, with two signs for each project in most cases, according to research conducted for Balmer by Melissa Nelson with the Colorado Department of Transportation’s government relations office. With the signs ranging in cost from $743 to $1,238 a piece, it is estimated that taxpayers have paid anywhere from $74,250 to $123,750 to place the signs at the 100 stimulus job sites across the state.
Balmer calls it a “waste of money,” arguing that the money could have been spent on additional road projects.
“They should be spending every penny of that road construction money on road construction,” he told the Denver Daily News last week.
Prohibiting signage to promote stimulus projects
House Bill 1079 would prohibit the use of public money for any “physical signage” that aims at promoting stimulus projects. The bill on Friday had yet to be scheduled for committee.
A spokeswoman for CDOT confirmed that it has been the state’s prerogative to place the signs at stimulus job sites. But Stacey Stegman said CDOT was “strongly encouraged” by the federal government to place the signs.
“While it was up to the state to decide whether or not to post the signs, we were ‘strongly encouraged’ to do so,” she said. “So while it wasn’t a requirement, it would have been negative for Colorado not to do so.”
The signs are made by local businesses, which raises concerns over whether halting the signage program would be an economic blow to the companies.
“This is another way that businesses are benefiting from the Recovery Act,” said Stegman. “I can’t say whether it would hurt them or not, but obviously this was positive for these businesses to also receive additional work.”
CDOT has not taken a position on Balmer’s bill, and added that it doesn’t really have an opinion on the signs either.
A promotion for Ritter?
But Balmer’s opinion on the subject is strong. He believes — because the signs include Gov. Bill Ritter’s name on them — that there was a secret agenda by Democrats to promote the governor for his campaign for re-election. The governor ultimately decided earlier this month not to seek another term in office.
Balmer, however, believes the governor should return to voters all the money that was spent on the stimulus signs. He says Ritter can take the money from his earlier campaign contributions.
“It was somewhat transparent what they were trying to do — all of those signs had Bill Ritter’s name on them, and — while they’re not running Bill Ritter anymore — I think that was part of the boost Bill Ritter’s name program, and Gov. Ritter should reimburse the taxpayers for the cost of those signs from his campaign accounts,” said Balmer.
A spokesman for Ritter said Balmer should be focusing on bipartisanship — as was suggested by Ritter during his State of the State address last week — instead of partisan squabbling.
“Balmer needs to quit taking partisan cheap shots and stay focused on the No. 1 task at hand: job creation,” said Evan Dreyer, Ritter’s spokesman. “He obviously needs to listen to the governor’s State of the State speech again since it took Balmer about 2-1/2 minutes to give in ‘to the weaker impulses of partisanship’ and since he is clearly not turning to the ‘better angels of our nature.’”
Dreyer is referring to Ritter’s State of the State address in which he cited remarks by Abraham Lincoln.
“I’m going to send him a copy of the speech just to make sure he gets the message,” quipped Dreyer.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters