DENVER — Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler is not to blame the steep shortfall in his office budget, and members of the legislature’s powerful bipartisan Joint Budget Committee would see that if only they would fairly review the facts, Gessler writes in a letter responding to committee concerns and delivered in advance of an appearance he is scheduled to make before the committee this week.
Committee members and Gessler have been banging heads over the department of state’s budget problems and trading barbs in the press for weeks, a pattern likely to continue.
“I am sorely disappointed with your committee’s behavior,” Gessler writes to open his letter, and “I am frustrated that the committee squelched any opportunity to directly discuss these issues with me.
He argues, as he has in the past, that his budget was thrown off, not by his decision to slash fees on businesses and nonprofits, but by an election-reform bill passed last year by Democratic lawmakers that has overburdened his office.
Just a year ago, he says, “we carried a comfortable $1.9 million surplus. But… the legislature shoved through a partisan election bill that severely damaged our budget.”
The election bill — House Bill 1303 — aimed to increase voter participation and update election administration for the digital age. It was endorsed by a majority of county clerks in the state. Gessler has said it was sloppily written and is an invitation to fraud.
Before winning office in 2010, Gessler was a high-profile conservative-politics campaign and election lawyer and he is now running for governor. His appearances at the capitol have become predictable showdowns. He spars with lawmakers in a combative style carried over from the courtroom.
The committee members have shown little patience for his arguments about the budget and are sure to come prepared to argue against their merit.