Colo. governor tells state agencies to cut $320M |

Colo. governor tells state agencies to cut $320M

Associated Press Writer

DENVER – Gov. Bill Ritter has issued an executive order telling state agencies to cut up to $320 million by the end of June 2010 and he told lawmakers the cuts are nonnegotiable.

The order was signed Saturday but not made public until Wednesday.

In the order, Ritter said the nation is in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, resulting in increased unemployment and a sharp drop in consumer spending. He said that has slashed state revenues.

“My direction to executive agencies was to focus reductions on eliminating the least efficient and effective programs, rather than continuing to shave resources from existing programs,” Ritter said in a letter to legislators.

In his executive order, Ritter said the cuts are nonnegotiable.

“Decisions made in connection with implementing this executive order are not subject to review or appeal, except for those claims expressly provided a right of review or appeal in the state Constitution or under state statute,” said Ritter, a Democrat.

Sen. Moe Keller, chairwoman of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, said Republicans may force a vote on the cuts when they return in January because it’s an election year, but they would have to propose their own budget cuts to replace Ritter’s cuts.

“I don’t know how we can reverse these cuts, I don’t know where we would find the money,” she said.

Ritter said under state law, he can order a cut in spending for only three months, until Nov. 30. But he plans to extend the order to balance the budget for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The governor also gave lawmakers a thick binder outlining specific cuts. Many agencies warned of potentially serious consequences because of the budget cuts.

The cuts include saving $43,800 by eliminating a school safety officer to evaluate evacuation plans, cutting research on ways to prevent school violence, and eliminating a DNA lab technician, even though the state has a backlog of 2,700 samples for homicides, sex assaults and other crimes.

Cuts also include $1.9 million for DUI enforcement. The Department of Natural Resources will have to cut a coordinator for wild and scenic designation, which could hurt the state’s ability to negotiate issues with the federal government.

Other cuts will reduce enforcement of water laws, the state’s ability to fix problems with its troubled welfare computer system, therapy programs for the mentally ill and money for seniors awaiting federal financial aid.

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