Sen. Schultheis to Gov. Ritter: Let religious groups serve those in need

State Senator Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, sent a strongly worded letter to Gov. Ritter this afternoon, admonishing him for “soft-pedaling” the state’s fiscal crisis and for leaning on “budgetary gimmicks” to fill gaps. Schultheis suggested the governor make tougher cuts. Furloughing state employees isn’t a brave move; it’s a timid move. The private sector has lost thousands of jobs this year; so should the public sector. Schultheis wants to see an effective end to public social services, demanding that the state “stop usurping the fundamental role that religion and charity have played in uplifting those in need.”

Schultheis suggests no specific program cuts. He outlines no ideas on how to boost revenues. In fact, his conclusion demonstrates that there is no legitimate reason for the letter. He writes that in the end the governor will make all the cuts that are necessary because he has to, because the law requires officials in Colorado to balance the budget.

Does it, though? Does Ritter have to balance the budget?

In his nonspecific ranting, Schultheis makes a good case for abandoning the balanced budget as an untenable goal in the present climate, one where there is no money but where making cuts is only a little less politically disastrous than attempting to raise revenue, a state of affairs that makes workable consensus impossible.

Schultheis’s poison-pen letter is the most recent shot in a strategic broadside where Ritter is damned if he makes cuts and damned if he doesn’t make cuts. Senate Minority Leader and GOP candidate for governor Josh Penry made a similarly great show of chastising Ritter for cutting funds for a special needs home in Grand Junction this summer only to later concede that, as a fiscal conservative, he supported the cut.

In his letter, Schultheis doesn’t mention the controversial “tough” budget cut that closed the Grand Junction facility. His plan would apparently include putting an end to the state’s “usurping the role of religion and charity” by encouraging the same cash-strapped religious groups that didn’t step in to save the facility went it was closing to now buy it along with the medical equipment it houses and to staff it with volunteers pulled from the dwindling ranks of living nuns.

The kind of impracticality characteristic of non-proposals like Schultheis’s to address the budget crisis is leading to a low rumble from those imagining the unimaginable.

Blogger cunninjo at Colorado Pols, home to occasional off-the-record capitol-based opining, outlines the intractability of the situation.

A ballot initiative to raise taxes will not pass, which means lawmakers won’t even bother proposing it, especially as it would require spending lots of money on a doomed promotional campaign.

If in a miracle it did pass, it would have no effect for roughly three years, and so would be of almost no use for the three years of pain stretched out like a bed of burning coals for residents to tread upon all across the state.

Then why not change the state constitution to make it so lawmakers can more easily raise taxes and allocate the tax revenue without all of the present overlapping and confused restrictions that make it difficult to prioritize spending and patch gaping budget holes?

No, that’s impossible, not least because Republicans, being in the minority now, would never agree to a constitutional convention.

What to do?

My suggestion to Ritter is to ignore the balanced budget requirement in the Constitution and say, that in his duty to protect the best interests of Colorado residents, the constitutional requirements bestowed on the state government are unachievable.

Why not? They’ve never met the Amendment 23 requirement to adequately fund K-12 education. If they can ignore that then why not ignore other requirements.  

Ignore the infamous dictates of the Tax Payers Bill of Rights? Risk budget-deficit Californication? Crazy! Or maybe not.

Schultheis’s acidic letter is more evidence that a lot of lawmakers aren’t after workable solutions, that now more than ever answers will have to come from somewhere way outside the box.

Calls to Sen. Schultheis’s office went unreturned.

The Schulteis letter:

scultheis letter 1

schultheis letter 2

schultheis letter 3

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