Penry asks Ritter for a peek at paperwork and a taste of power

Senate Majority Leader and candidate for governor Josh Penry and House Minority Leader Mike May sent Gov. Ritter a letter today (pdf) asking to review draft recommendations submitted last month to Ritter on the state program and job cuts he plans to make by the end of the summer. Penry apparently believes the draft proposals might offer an unvarnished peek into the state budgets. He wants to see them now before Ritter’s office might edit them.

Candidate Penry may have been planning this move for a while. He waited until after July 20, the deadline for department heads to submit their proposals, to announce the fact that he wanted lawmakers to have access to the drafts. Penry must be convinced the department authors would have written them differently had they known the proposals would be placed before members of the legislature just as they surely will be considering where to additionally slash state spending.

At the time he announced the plan, Ritter said he would make sure his administration’s values were reflected in any action that came as a result of the proposals. Penry, a member of the severely weakened minority party in the legislature and still a long way from the governor’s seat, would nevertheless for obvious reasons like for his values to be reflected as well.

Ritter’s request for budget-cutting recommendations came in reaction to worsening state economic reports released this past spring and early summer. To save the state money, the cuts would begin in August even though they wouldn’t be formally approved by the legislature until the session begins in 2010.

The text of the letter Penry and May sent today to Ritter:

Dear Governor Ritter,

Earlier this summer, you directed your cabinet heads to review their budgets and submit recommendations on how to reduce those budgets by ten percent. These recommendations were to be completed and submitted by July 20. As equal partners in the budget process, we believe that the legislature is entitled to review these recommendations — before they are edited or redacted by your office.

No one believes that addressing Colorado’s rapidly growing structural spending deficit is going to be easy. It is going to require difficult decisions by the General Assembly, and we need to make sure that those decisions are informed decisions.

The executive directors have a detailed understanding of their agency budgets. While every member of the legislature may not agree with every proposal put forth, these unvarnished budget recommendations will be of great value to legislators as they undertake the difficult task of determining which programs are central to the missions of each department.

In a June 25 statement you said, “We will go through each of the department submittals line-by-line and item-by-item as we determine how best to balance the budget…” As a coequal branch of government, we think members of the General Assembly ought to have that same opportunity.

We hope you agree, and look forward to your reply.

In his signature, incidentally, the Senate Minority Leader is a one-name entity. Just only “josh–“.

penry signature

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About the Author

John Tomasic

Writer, editor, teacher, web wrangler. He has worked for art, business, culture, politics publications, five universities and a UN war crimes commission. @johntomasic | 720-432-2128 |

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