The Colorado Senate GOP filibuster that went into the wee hours of Monday morning made for high political drama and probably some juicy negative ad fodder for the next campaign cycle. But there were 14 elephants who forgot their own roles in the transportation funding crisis.
Remember Referendum D, anyone?
The Republican caucus argued long and loud that the bipartisan budget reform bill SB 228 would amount to “highway robbery.” The repeal of the Arveschoug-Bird provision would eliminate the 6 percent limit on growth in the state General Fund that funds health care programs, job training, mental health services, prisons and hundreds of safety net programs for residents (not to mention thousands of public and private sector jobs).
Any money left over in the General Fund gets automatically transferred to transportation and capital projects, but that hasn’t happened for years in the recession-wracked state budget further pinched by TABOR.
Considering the economic times and the fast-growing rolls for unemployment, food assistance and poverty prevention programs, does it really make sense to choose pavement over people?
Senate Majority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, made his yearning for asphalt known with his caucus offering dozens of amendments to stymie the bill. Many of those proposed revisions would halt the implementation of the budget reform process until funding-starved transportation and capital improvement projects were completed in GOP districts.
Why is there no cash to pave roads and expand rural community colleges?
One reason is the failure of Referendum D, the $1.5 billion bond initiative for transportation, K-12 and higher education capital construction projects and police/firefighter pensions, which lost by a scant 14,000 votes in 2005. Then-Rep. Penry opposed the initiative and actively campaigned against it.
More recently, the entire Republican caucus voted against SB 108, the transportation funding bill known as FASTER, expected to raise $250 million per year. Cooler heads prevailed and the governor signed the bill Monday but not for the continuing obstruction of Minority Leader Penry and crew who should be dubbed “Hoover Man” and “No Boy.”