Hullinghorst’s pay-go dies on House floor

Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Niwot, saw her second attempt to run pay-go legislation turned back in the House Tuesday as she tried to amend a joint resolution that changed some General Assembly operating rules.

The amendment would have required members to identify where they would find funds for new programs, credits or expenditures before a bill is passed to the appropriations committee.

“In these tough economic times, there is nothing more important legislators can do for our state than to ensure we never spend more money than we have,” Hullinghorst said in a statement. “We owe it to the taxpayers of Colorado to be good stewards of their money. Clearly, House Republicans disagree and are leaving the door open for themselves to add programs that will cost the state millions of dollars that we don’t have, and create even more tax loopholes for corporations and special interests that will reduce the state’s already diminishing revenue.”

Democrats rose in support of the amendment on the House floor. They said pay-go would lead to greater accountability for legislators and allow the public to see what programs would receive cuts to pay for tax exemptions or new programs. Republicans, however, said the amendment was little more than a gimmick and said bills are already scrutinized under a heavy accountability system.

“When I look at this amendment it makes me think that our fiscal problems [are] not that we tax too little or that we have extra tax dollars or that we are trying to give the taxpayers a break, it is that we spend too much,” Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, said. “Government has a voracious appetite.”

Fellow Republican Rep. Brian DelGrosso, Loveland, said that pay-go had not worked at the federal level and said that it was not needed in a state constitutionally mandated to have a balanced budget.

“There are over a hundred members who will review these bills and up to six different times that they will be heard in committee,” DelGrosso said. “We are talking about transparency. You can’t get more transparent than that…This amounts to nothing more than a gimmick.”

Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, disagreed with DelGrosso, explaining that without the pay-go, the federal government had entered into wars and further entitlement expenditures. She said the bill stopped legislators from kicking the can down to appropriations or the joint budget committee.

“This bill requires each of us to be responsible,” Levy said.

This was a second attempt for Hullinghorst, who ran similar legislation in the House Finance Committee where it received a similar response, dying in committee.

After the vote, House Minority Leader Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, spoke to the legislation he had championed in his opening remarks of the session.

“We’ve been fighting for these common-sense rules since day one,” said Pace. “I’m baffled that Republicans continue to shirk their pledge to fiscal responsibility.”

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