Yes, it is hot enough for me.
Republicans who think that Colorado’s government is too big and too expensive can take heart – we actually haven’t hit rock bottom. Yet.
As Ed Sealover of The Colorado Springs Gazette reports:
Colorado must spend billions more each year on education, transportation and health care just to reach the average per-capita allocations of other states in those areas, according to a report put out by a private organization this week.
The Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, which works toward financial polices that benefit especially low- and moderate-income populations, did not offer specific solutions on how to fix the problem. But the report, “Aiming for the Middle,” declared that it is time for public discussion about the state’s spending choices.
“Colorado is a wonderful and amazing place in so many ways, yet we continue to lag behind other states when it comes to investing in our future,” senior fiscal policy analyst Carol Hedges said in a statement.
The report found that, among the 50 states, Colorado ranks:
– 49th in covering the uninsured and low-income families under Medicaid
– 39th in state highway spending per capita
– 48th in per-capita spending on higher education
– 34th in per-capita investment in public elementary and secondary schools.
To bring it up to average levels, the state would have to increase spending annually by $1 billion on health care, $139 million on highways, $467 million on public colleges and universities and $672.5 million on elementary and secondary schools, the report states.
Naturally, Republicans derided the report by saying that the answer isn’t to spend more money, and maybe they’re right. Perhaps we could fund our schools and Medicaid programs with IOUs, just like the Bush Administration has done with the Iraq war.
Vice President Dick Cheney continues to do what he does best: Tell people to “go f*** themselves.” As The Washington Post reports:
Vice President Cheney’s office has refused to comply with an executive order governing the handling of classified information for the past four years and recently tried to abolish the office that sought to enforce those rules, according to documents released by a congressional committee yesterday.
Since 2003, the vice president’s staff has not cooperated with an office at the National Archives and Records Administration charged with making sure the executive branch protects classified information. Cheney aides have not filed reports on their possession of classified data and at one point blocked an inspection of their office. After the Archives office pressed the matter, the documents say, Cheney’s staff this year proposed eliminating it.
The dispute centers on a relatively obscure process but underscores a wider struggle waged in the past 6 1/2 years over Cheney’s penchant for secrecy. Since becoming vice president, he has fought attempts to peer into the inner workings of his office, shielding an array of information such as the names of industry executives who advised his energy task force, costs and other details about his travel, and Secret Service logs showing who visits his office or official residence.
The aggressive efforts to protect the operations of his staff have usually pitted Cheney against lawmakers, interest groups or media organizations, sometimes going all the way to the Supreme Court. But the fight about classified information regulation indicates that the vice president has resisted oversight even by other parts of the Bush administration. Cheney’s office argued that it is exempt from the rules in this case because it is not strictly an executive branch agency.
“He’s saying he’s above the law,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which released a series of correspondence yesterday outlining the situation. “It just seems to me this is arrogant and shows bad judgment.”
Cheney’s office declined to discuss what it called internal matters. “We are confident that we are conducting the office properly under the law,” said spokeswoman Megan McGinn.
You’ve gotta love the official stance from Cheney’s office. Trust us, we’re doing everything completely by the books. The Bush Adminstration has really crossed over from being secretive to being embarrassing at this point.
Meanwhile, the Iraq Study Group that President Bush once called on, only to ignore their recommendations, may be brought back from the dead. As The Washington Post explains:
The Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel that mapped out an alternative U.S. strategy for Iraq last December, may be reconstituted for a sequel.
In a sign of the growing public pressure on Congress, the House voted 355 to 69 yesterday to revive the 10-member panel chaired by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) to again review U.S. policy and offer new recommendations.
“I’m receptive to reconstituting the group, but I can only speak for myself as I don’t know feelings of the group and Baker is traveling,” Hamilton said in an interview. “If Congress thinks we can be constructive, then I think we should do it.”
The House vote was on an amendment proposed by Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) to an appropriations bill providing $34.2 billion for State Department and foreign operations. Now that the House has voted, a bipartisan group within Congress — including Shays and Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) — will seek an alternative source of funding since the bill is not likely to pass quickly enough for the Iraq Study Group to report in the fall.
Shays said the Baker-Hamilton group could play a pivotal role again. “Last fall, the Iraq Study Group provided Congress a thoughtful assessment on one of the most important issues of our time,” Shays said in an interview. “As we approach another crossroad in this conflict, having that thoughtful insight again will be invaluable.”
The goal is to have the group make its new report within about a month of the assessments scheduled to be outlined to Congress in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker on military and political progress in Iraq, Shays said.
Labor unions are still hoping for some sort of action on the Employee Free Choice Act now in the U.S. Senate. As Tom McGhee of The Denver Post reports:
The union-backed Employee Free Choice Act now in the U.S. Senate has no chance of becoming law this year, but that hasn’t stopped labor and business from pouring resources into a scrap over the bill.
Over the past week, the Center for Union Facts, an anti-union organization, has mounted a $500,000 campaign to defeat the bill, which would make it easier to unionize a workplace. The center ran ads on cable TV and in The New York Times and USA Today.
The AFL-CIO has collected a little less than that from affiliates and is using it to drive a campaign that includes cable-TV advertising and grassroots activities throughout the country, said Bill Samuel, director of legislation for the national AFL-CIO.
On Thursday, union members engaged in street theater in downtown Denver to put pressure on Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., to vote for the act.
All this activity is over a bill that Republicans plan to filibuster and the president will probably veto if it gets to his desk.
Nonetheless, labor wants to keep the bill in the public eye and put pressure on politicians while working to elect a Democrat to the White House in 2008.
The bill could then become law in 2009, Samuel said.
“The minimum wage (legislation) came up every year for 10 straight years, and it took 10 years to get it passed. That is how the pressure to pass major legislation is built,” he said…
…The law would allow unions to bargain for workers in businesses where more than 50 percent of the workers sign union- authorization cards. It would eliminate a secret election by employees that now follows the card-signing.
Supporters say the bill would end harassment and intimidation of union organizers by employers. Opponents say doing away with the secret election would leave employees vulnerable to union intimidation.
Todd Hartman of the Rocky Mountain News says the ozone is part of a hot debate right now:
The EPA’s proposed toughening of the nation’s air pollution standard for ozone would improve public health but create difficulties for industry in the Denver region, which has struggled to stay within the existing standard for the pollutant.
The proposal is based on new scientific findings that show current limits aren’t protective enough, both for people with existing respiratory ills and for healthy adults exercising outdoors on high pollution days.
The EPA’s proposal recommends ratcheting down the current limit of 80 parts per billion over an eight-hour period to 70 to 75 parts per billion, which – if in effect today – would put the metro area in violation of the health standard.
A slew of new pollution-control measures could be in the offing for the region, ranging from costlier, cleaner-burning gasoline to new limits on emissions from oil and gas operations.
More public education campaigns to limit even everyday activities, such as lawn mowing and backyard grilling – both contributors to ozone – might be considered.
“Advances in science are leading to cleaner skies and healthier lives,” EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said in a prepared statement. “By strengthening the ozone standard, EPA is keeping our clean air momentum moving into the future.”
But in a parallel move that has some environmentalists wondering if the EPA is actually planning to maintain the current standard, the agency said Thursday that it would continue to take public comment on leaving the 80 parts per billion limit in place.
I’m all for the 80 parts per billion limit. Or am I? Frankly, I don’t really understand this story.
Republican Presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were both in Denver yesterday. Karen Crummy of The Denver Post hung out with Mitt:
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, in Colorado to raise money and give a speech on national security, said Thursday that a strong military, strong economy and strong family values are the keys to moving the country forward.
“It’s the three-legged stool,” said Romney, who did not hold any public events but spoke to reporters for a few minutes at the Brown Palace Hotel. “It’s time that we as a nation return to the source of America’s strength.”
The former Massachusetts governor, who has lagged in the polls despite raising more money in the first quarter than any other GOP candidate, also dismissed those who have contended his Mormon religion may be a liability in his White House bid…
…Romney, who has raised more money in the interior West than any other presidential candidate, also noted that Colorado Republicans could possibly influence the presidential race if they move up their caucus to Feb. 5 – the same date as about two dozen other states.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers voted to allow political parties to move their presidential caucuses from March 20 to Feb. 5. The chairs of the Democratic Party and the GOP are in favor of doing so but haven’t completed the official process.
Elsewhere, Newt Gingrich – not yet officially a candidate for President – also gave a speech in Denver:
Republican Newt Gingrich said Thursday night in Denver that he’s unlikely to run for his party’s presidential nomination if leading GOP candidates adopt his ideas for overhauling government.
“If, in my own party, a (Rudy) Giuliani or a (Mitt) Romney or a Fred Thompson take up these ideas…we probably won’t run,” he said.
However, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives said if there is a “collapse” among such candidates later this year and there is “no effective opposition” to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, “then we’d consider running.”
Gingrich ruled out running as an independent.
He spoke to more than 100 people at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts at an event sponsored by Malik and Seeme Hasan. Malik Hasan, a Colorado-based health care mogul, raised money for the re-election of President Bush in 2004.
Independence Institute head Jon Caldara may wish he was a smart politician, but wishing doesn’t make it so. As Colorado Media Matters explains:
Guest hosting on the June 21 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA’s The Mike Rosen Show, Independence Institute president Jon Caldara misread Bill Husted’s June 21 Denver Post column in claiming that 5280 Magazine had voted Caldara “best politician.” Caldara added, “[T]here it is in black and white: best politi — not second best. Best politician. Just a little bit of respect, please. Do you know how much that cost me? I had to tip the guy 500 dollars for that award.” According to Husted’s column, however, former Denver City Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth won “best politician,” while “Caldera” [sic] won the “loudmouth in need of a muzzle” award in the Denver-based magazine’s annual “Top of the Town” listings…
…From Bill Husted’s June 21 Denver Post column, “Radio station ‘Summer of Love’ into one day”:
Baby, you’re the best
5280 magazine is out with its Top of the Town roster, telling us what’s good about everything and everyone in Denver. Here’s a smattering of winners:
Hotel bar, Peaks Lounge at the Hyatt Convention Center; sports bar, Choppers; dive bar, Gabor’s; make-out spot, Cinderella Twin Drive-In; politician to vote out of office, Rep. Tom Tancredo; loudmouth in need of a muzzle, Jon Caldera; best politician, Elbra Wedgeworth; best bartender, Dwight Long at My Brother’s Bar.
Hey, just keep telling yourself that you’re the best politician, big guy. Self confidence is key.