(Press Release, Dec. 18) According to Legislative Council, which presented its fourth quarter revenue forecast to the Joint Budget Committee today, Colorado is still facing a $600 million shortfall, a total of $631 million shortfall when including the increase in Medicaid caseload. Despite reports that the recession is over, the sobering news for the current budget year has Republicans calling on Gov. Bill Ritter and majority Democrats to step up and show some true fiscal leadership. Just last week Ritter painted a cheerful picture of the budget's future, telling reporters he was hopeful there wouldn't be another shortfall or a need for more cuts. Republicans believed Ritter's comments were naïve and overly optimistic. Ritter has consistently underestimated the budget shortfall beginning in the Fall of 2008 when his office projected the state's budget would actually grow, even in the midst of a historic collapse of the nation's financial markets.
“All the happy talk we've been hearing doesn't obscure that our budget situation continues to deteriorate,” said Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction. “So I ask the question again: when will the Governor stop hiring new employees, when will the Democratic monopoly in the Capitol implement a serious plan to consolidate departments, agencies boards and commissions, when will they implement meaningful and permanent spending reductions rather than relying overwhelmingly on one time gimmicks and federal bailouts, and when will real scrutiny be applied to the battery of new programs created since the Democrats gained unfettered power in 2006?”
Over the past few months, Ritter and fellow Democrats have offered a laundry list of band aids to address Colorado's budget crisis. Of Ritter's proposed fixes, 82 percent are one time solutions, such as federal bailout dollars, cash fund transfers, accounting gimmicks and money raided from state trust funds. This will push the majority of the shortfall, which is anticipated to be $1.5 billion, into the 2010-11 fiscal year.
“How many different ways can we implore the governor and ruling democrats to take our advice and slim the bureaucracy, get off the backs of people trying to create real jobs, and eliminate wasteful spending programs so that our government can get out of the rudderless ship mode it's in?" asked Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton.
Ritter has also proposed closing part of the budget gap with a host of tax and fee increases. “We've been warning Democrats for years to curb their tax and spend approach to government. Ritter still doesn't get that we need to live within our means and stop pounding the people for more dollars while families across Colorado are still struggling to make ends meat,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Loveland.