How to fund education? Unity and brinksmanship

Senate lawmakers on the left and right came together Thursday to fund more schools in Denver, passing Senate Bill 256. It was a remarkable feat but it may be overshadowed by the big-time poker game the Joint Budget Committee began dealing out Wednesday, which could cost already strapped higher education in the state roughly $400 million. The committee threatened to cut $300 million in state funds, which would automatically disqualify Colorado for $100 million more in federal stimulus cash.

The proposed cuts are part of the committee’s bluffing to get Pinnacol Assurance, the “semi-public” state workman’s comp insurer, to make concessions and loosen up state funds. It’s part of the constant and increasingly desperate bargaining lawmakers are forced into by the state’s small and frightfully contracting budget, the handiwork of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).

The comment thread on the news at Colorado Pols is predictably good reading. One commenter finally suggesting that instead of bargaining and maneuvering and shifting money to here from there and back every year, lawmakers should just begin to let vital services that people will notice fail — like public safety and roads.

Maybe not the wisest plan but, on a reptilian-brain level, it feels right, like marching on AIG with pitchforks and so on, the kind of stuff you can read at comment threads anywhere these days. And, hey, what are comment threads for if not to vent reptilian brain products?

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