Mark Hillman – former state senate majority leader and former state treasurer – once again has established himself as a leading voice of fiscal sanity in Colorado. In an op-ed in today’s Denver Post, he assails Governor Bill Ritter and his Democratic colleagues at the helm of the state legislature for their ongoing mismanagement of the looming budget crisis:
Balancing a budget during a recession is a difficult job, certainly. But balancing this year’s budget didn’t need to be this hard if only the leaders at the Capitol had learned from the last recession â€” or listened to those who experienced it.
Last spring, as the economic storm clouds gathered, Gov. Bill Ritter and legislative leaders had opportunities to take precautions.
One worthwhile precaution was issed by Treasurer Cary Kennedy and then-Rep. Bernie Buescher. At a time when revenues under Referendum C were surging, their proposal reasonably sought to double the state’s reserve fund by saving, rather than spending, some $250 million.
Not only is Hillman a classy voice for giving some credit on this issue to his former rival Cary Kennedy, but he also is a trustworthy voice of experience, as well. While still at the State Capitol, he was one of the leading voices calling for investment in a rainy-day fund. In 2003 he drafted a proposal that the legislature could send to the people of Colorado calling for a temporary suspension of both TABOR and Amendment 23, with excess TABOR revenues going into a rainy-day fund. It was formally introduced in 2004 as Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 2.
With some minor tweaks and a new co-sponsor, Hillman’s SCR 13 passed out of committee on a party-line vote (Republicans supported, Democrats opposed) and made it to the Senate floor. Unfortunately, the proposal was amended and failed to reach the two-thirds vote necessary to send it to the people. As a result, the much less palatable permanent tax increase of Referendum C came our way instead.
Hillman opposed Referendum C, but when he ran for State Treasurer in 2006 his platform included setting aside a portion of the new Ref C revenues in – what else? – a rainy-day fund.
Moral of the story? When it comes to the looming budget crisis, Colorado would be a lot better off with someone of Mark Hillman’s vision and leadership in charge than the short-sighted and indecisive Bill Ritter administration. Just saying … and there will be an election next year to decide whether Ritter will serve as our state’s chief executive for another four years. It would be nice to see someone like Hillman step up and run against him.