This is a letter I recently received from state Sen. Mike Kopp regarding recent budget decisions at the Statehouse. I find it hard to believe that anyone, given the state of the economy and the constraints on higher education funding, would not be outraged by it. I certainly was.
"Guardians of the Status Quo
"At the start of the week the joint budget committee (JBC) demonstrated in a profound way that they truly are the guardians of the status quo. Good, intelligent people all, they have miserably failed this Legislature and the people of Colorado.
"They delivered a budget to the Legislature that was devoid of the tough cuts that have to be made in a recession. Instead, they gave us a budget that shorted higher education by $300 million and told us their way to fix this wasn't to make across the board spending cuts, but rather to seize the private assets of Pinnacol Assurance (the state's only workers compensation provider of last resort). Pinnacol's reserves, by law, are owned by Pinnacol clients, not the state.
"But this Legislature has truly lost its ability to blush.
"To try and arrest this illegal maneuver, Sens. Brophy and Penry and I worked with the Senate president before the budget bill came up for debate Thursday.
"Jointly, we told the JBC to go back to the drawing board. We told them not to give us the false choice between stealing Pinnacol's money and cutting higher education to the point that colleges will actually be forced to close.
"They refused to entertain even a single cut.
"So the budget bill came up for debate, Republicans offered a package of some $250 million in cuts, some tough ones to be sure. For starters, I offered an amendment to cut the pay of legislators and staff. The Denver Post reported on the idea here. Everyone in the real world has to make cuts, why shouldn't we? Democrats killed the amendment.
"I offered an amendment to cut the state's higher education bureaucracy by some $700,000. Incredibly, they are set to hire seven new people this year while some of the colleges they serve are literally contemplating closing. Again, the majority party killed the measure.
"In the end, Republicans and a few Democrats banded together to pass a modest amendment that moved a bit over $800,000 to higher education.
"Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and our colleagues in the house will be able to make the hard choices that have to be made on the budget once it goes to their side. And hopefully our guys over there will be able to save higher education and be able to stop the seizure of Pinnacol's clients' money.
"As always, your input is greatly appreciated.
Methinks we have put the foxes in charge of the chickenhouse.