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Gov. Ritter Looks Back On Legislative Session

Gov. Bill Ritter yesterday defended the divisive bills that lawmakers passed this year and trumped the Legislature’s efforts as a successful capstone to his four years in office.
Yesterday’s press conference with reporters followed the final day of the 2010 120-day legislative session. Ritter again threw his support behind a controversial series of bills that eliminated or suspended a series of tax credits and exemptions for businesses in Colorado. He also trumped a bill that would reform teacher tenure in Colorado — which split the Democratic caucus and raised the ire of many in the education sector — as a cutting-edge way to improve Colorado’s workforce.
“We accomplished everything that we set out to accomplish,” said Ritter.
Meanwhile, Republicans again blasted Ritter for essentially raising taxes on everything from candy and soda to select online purchases. In a press release sent out last week, House Republicans called the 2010 legislative session a “taxing” experience.
“Raising taxes on small businesses and consumers is never good economic policy,” said a statement from House Republican Leader Mike May. “But it is preposterous for Democrats to think that Coloradans can afford to pay more in taxes while jobs are being lost and our economy is struggling. I have to ask myself if they are actually trying to run businesses and jobs out of Colorado.”
But Ritter pointed out that the business community still wasn’t hit as hard as K-12 education, which lost $260 million in funding this legislative session. Additionally, Colorado’s elderly community lost $90 million under a bill that would suspend the property tax exemption some qualifying seniors get. Ritter this year was charged with closing a $1.3 billion budget gap for next year’s state budget.
“Overall we spread the difficult decisions across people so that there wasn’t any great impact to any sort of one community,” Ritter said.
Despite the heated partisan fight over eliminating the more than $100 million in tax credits and exemptions, Ritter pointed out the bipartisan successes lawmakers achieved during the legislative session. Significant bills to reform the state’s Public Employees Retirement Association and teacher tenure system gathered both Republican and Democrat support.
Ritter contributed part of the bipartisan success to the fact that he and some other key lawmakers were not up for election.
“I wasn’t running for reelection and I was free of election year politics,” he said.
Yesterday’s press conference likely marked the final legislative wrap-up session Ritter will ever give. Ritter said that some of the session’s greatest accomplishments — teacher tenure reform, bills that increase the state’s renewable energy standard to 30 percent by 2020 and replace old coal-fired power plants with cleaner-burning natural gas — were possible because of the efforts of the three previous legislative sessions in which he was governor.
When asked by the Denver Daily News whether he had any second thoughts about not running for reelection, Ritter said his “decision was a good decision and the right decision.”
“You bet there are things left undone, there will always be things left undone whenever you leave office, that’s the nature of government,” he said. “But we’re very proud of the things we’ve been able to do.”

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