The Colorado Republican Party “Platform for Prosperity” introduced with fanfare Monday by gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis has drawn fire for its lack of specifics. Analysts on the left and right have noted the platform fails to provide funding mechanisms for its proposals. Governor Bill Ritter’s office was harshly critical of the platform in discussions with the Colorado Independent, calling hypocritical. Advocacy groups saw the plan as divorced from reality and misleading.
The governor’s office responds
Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer called the platform a list of platitudes that lacked specifics.
“This is a manifesto from the past. It is unrealistic in many areas. It is hypocritical in many areas. It is redundant concerning many of the things that Governor Ritter is already doing. And in many ways it is too extreme,” he said. “It just doesn’t represent the realities of today’s Colorado.”
Dreyer said that one of the chief criticisms levied by the document concerns the governor’s management of the budget. He took pains to refute attacks made by Republicans around the state and repeated in the document that Ritter increased the state payroll, for example. Anyone reading the newspapers and watching the news would understand that Ritter has been making dramatic spending cuts to state programs and seeking to ramp up the state’s unique new energy economy to help drive job growth, he said. Specifically, Ritter has ordered the elimination of 300 full-time state positions.
“The [state] work force directly under [Ritter’s] purview today contains at least 500 employees less than it did when the economy began to tank a year ago,” Dreyer said.
He cited spending reductions such as the unpaid furlough days imposed on the state workers, as well as the proposed 2.5 percent pay cut. Employees will not receive any kind of a salary increase for at least two years.
“These are specific actions that are reducing spending by tens of millions of dollars. [Ritter] is creating a state government that is leaner, smarter, and more efficient and more reflective of this new economic reality.”
This “Platform for Prosperity” would essentially stop the new energy economy in its tracks, Dreyer said, “but the [new energy sector] is the brightest light in our entire economy.”
The new-energy sector, he said, is a perfect example of how Colorado can marry its unique natural and intellectual resources to build present and future economic sectors to capitalize on shifts in thinking and practice about energy all over the world. Colorado he said should keep attempting to build a national model for job creation and for business development and innovation.
Dreyer said that since Ritter has taken office the state’s new energy economy has helped to bring almost 20000 jobs in renewable energy and energy research into the state. Colorado now has the fourth-highest concentration of new energy jobs in the country.
“It is a large reason why our unemployment rate has declined for three months in a row, why our unemployment rate is 3 points below the national average, why experts say we will be one of the first states to come out of the recession, and why Colorado is repeatedly named one of the best states to do business in.”
Dreyer also criticized parts of the bill as hypocritical, citing Republican calls for investment into state infrastructure, in particular.
“Why did nearly every Republican lawmaker vote against the plan just this last legislative session to keep our roads and bridges safe?
Dreyer was discussing the FASTER legislation, which is expected to generate roughly $252 million annually for transportation projects, including improvements to more than 100 structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges.
Ritter has also supported a rainy day fund, Dreyer pointed out. The legislation would have implemented a plan to build the state reserve fund from the current 4 percent to 10 percent to protect critical state services during the next economic downturn. “It is currently raining,” Dreyer said.
Dreyer also mocked the GOP Platform’s asserted dedication to “reforming government and challenging the status quo” as if it were something new.
The platform states its adherent will “undertake a comprehensive review of state government to identify and eliminate waste, fraud, excess and abuse, freeing up dollars to spend on core areas that benefit the economy [and] conduct an evaluation of the state’s boards, commissions and task forces and look for ways to achieve savings through consolidation.”
Dreyer said that “every governor in the last decade has taken a review of state government.” He explained that when the Ritter administration took over in 2007, it found ways to save $200 million.
“I think they are trying to claim that it is something that we have not done. We have done it and we are implementing those measures to achieve the savings right now.”
Part of those measures include the Colorado Consolidation plan, which has streamlined and centralized the state’s vast system of information. The project helped Ritter win the National Association of State Chief Information Officers State Technology Champion Award, said Dreyer.
Interest groups respond
In addition to criticism from the Governor’s office, interest groups also found portions of the Platform misleading or difficult to reconcile with their experience on the ground.
The plan vows, for example, to “reinstate the Owens-era enforcement of the Constitutional ban on taxpayer funding for organizations that provide abortions.”
Monica McCaferty, media relations specialist for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told the Colorado Independent that the wording is clearly misleading.
“More than 93 percent of the care provided at Planned Parenthood is preventative,” for example, she said. “The state funding we receive primarily assists women, mostly low-income women, access to life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings. We accept Medicaid, but in the state of Colorado, women are prohibited from using Medicaid to pay for an abortion with the exception of cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in danger.” The claim “falsely represents our organization and the care they provide to nearly 128,000 women, men and young adults each year.”
Chandra Russo, Communications Coordinator for Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said that the platform’s statements concerning illegal immigration were reductive.
She said that increasing identification requirements and verification techniques in providing services, for example, would not only effect the illegal immigrant population, but the elderly and poor whom the programs are there to assist.
“It is hard for the elderly to get access to birth certificates and difficult for them to attain multiple forms of identification. The mentally ill often don’t have access to basic identity documents. So they are the ones who are really feeling the heat.”
In terms of the enforcing workplace hiring regulations, Russo said that while it is important that employees citizenship is verified in some manner, the system now is riddled with errors, especially where Latino and Muslim names are concerned. The platform doesn’t acknowledge that reality.