By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
An attack on Republicans yesterday by a Democrat state lawmaker sparked an exchange of controversial statements between the two sides of the aisle over taxes and the budget.
Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, held an informal media availability at the Capitol yesterday to spread the word that he is demanding that Republicans provide a list of “concrete” plans for closing a projected shortfall of more than $1 billion next year.
Colorado is facing a budget shortfall of $248.7 million in the current fiscal year that ends in June, and lawmakers may need to cut an additional $67.2 million to compensate for less federal Medicaid funds, according to a state revenue forecast released last month.
Ferrandino, chairman of the powerful Joint Budget Committee, points to statements by Republicans that they would like to reduce or eliminate certain divisions within state government. But Ferrandino called the statements “rhetoric” and is calling for a specific proposal.
“I’ve been getting a little annoyed with the fact that (Senate Minority Leader Mike) Kopp and his colleagues over in the Senate, Republicans, have come out with all these press releases over the last couple of weeks saying, ‘We have solutions, come see our solutions,’ and all they are are talking points with no concrete plans,” Ferrandino told a small group of reporters at the Capitol yesterday.
Kopp, however, focused his attention on taxes, arguing that Democrats have plans to raise taxes next year.
“We really don’t need to see their ideas on paper; we’ve seen them in action for the past four years,” Kopp said in a statement following Ferrandino’s remarks. “All of their ideas resulted in increased taxes and fees creating higher unemployment — except for government bureaucrats.”
Ferrandino pointed out that the elimination of certain tax exemptions and credits this year only mounted to $250 million at most. Lawmakers were forced to slash the budget over the past three fiscal years by $4.3 billion.
Shortly after the response from Republicans, Ferrandino responded to the response by calling it a “non sequitur.”
“Typical,” said Ferrandino. “Just more irrelevant rhetoric with no real solutions. In times like this, people want practical solutions not more political speak. If the GOP has any actual ideas, then let’s see them in black and white: I asked them to give us their budget proposal by Oct. 25.”
Ferrandino did acknowledge that additional revenue generators, such as eliminating more tax breaks, could be on the table.
“We should look at these tax expenditures just like we look at state spending, and we should say, ‘Are these programs effective, efficient and are they working?’” said Ferrandino. “In good times and bad times we should be asking, ‘Are these working? …’”
HOUSE MAJORITY COMMUNICATIONS
JBC Chair Ferrandino Asks GOP to Get Real About Budget Cutting Ideas
(Denver) – For second time in two weeks, just as reports of 18 Republican candidates for state legislature with criminally-violent pasts hit the newspapers, Colorado Statehouse Republicans have teased us with offers of specific and concrete places where the state budget can be cut; except, not one suggestion has been specific or concrete.
“Republicans are ready for politics but they’re not ready to govern. We have serious budget challenges,” said Joint Budget Committee Chair Mark Ferrandino, “But they only offer talking points to solve them.”
Last week, they gave us their “Agenda to Reform & Restrain Government.” Yesterday they promised us “Solutions for Colorado.” But their website doesn’t have any ideas; it only desperately passes the buck, asking the public to solve our budget crisis. And their agenda is just a rehash of Democratic ideas and their same old talking points that don’t work in the real world.
To, Chairman Ferrandino, the GOP publicity efforts ring hollow:
“They seem to be a lot of recycled fluff… oddly, they issued it just as dozens of their candidates were revealed to have criminal, often violent, histories.
Republicans continue to sing the same old song of ‘budget cuts’ and ‘too much spending’ but don’t acknowledge how much Democrats have already cut out of the budget or offer any substantive suggestions as to where else they think we can make cuts,” said Rep. Ferrandino. “So, I’m asking them now to show me where they think our budget is too bloated, where cuts can be made that haven’t been made already, or for even one concrete idea they have about trimming the budget down further.
The fact of the matter is that since the recession started, we’ve cut spending and closed shortfalls of $4.4 billion. Another budget shortfall awaits us in the near future, $248 million in the current fiscal year to be exact with a potential for a shortfall of $1 billion next year. Either the Republicans don’t understand how the budget works or they’re being disingenuous to the public about how they think they could do better.”
The letter from Rep. Ferrandino to Senator Minority Leader Kopp is attached and pasted below.
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Senate Republicans Challenge Democrats To Come Clean
Democrats should be honest about which taxes they will increase
Denver – Today Senate Republicans challenged Democrat lawmakers to come clean about which taxes they intend to increase for the 2011 legislative session. Citing a need to “increase revenue” and calling a Senate Republican plan to limit government out of touch with reality, Democrats continue defending four years of increased taxes, uncontrolled spending and more dependence on Washington.
“We really don’t need to see their ideas on paper; we’ve seen them in action for the past four years. All of their ideas resulted in increased taxes and fees creating higher unemployment – except for government bureaucrats,” said Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp.
“It’s time we offer Colorado families a new direction. We cannot continue the same failed policies and hope for a different result. This is why Senate Republicans are excited to offer an alternative vision of limited government, lower taxes and reduced spending,” concluded Kopp.
“Rather than being open and honest about their intentions, Democrats have instead chosen to attack Senate Republican reform proposals,” said Assistant Minority Leader Greg Brophy. “I challenge Senate Democrats to offer up a new direction for Colorado – one that doesn’t kill jobs and run industries out of the state.”
Colorado Senate Republicans have released their Agenda for Economic Recovery and their Agenda to Reform and Restrain Government as part of their 2011 legislative agenda. You can read more at www.ColoradoSenateNews.com.