Colorado’s budget problem is spending on entitlements

So much chatter at the State Capitol is that Colorado’s government doesn’t have enough money to spend on programs that politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists want to pay for with our tax dollars.

Any discussion of government spending should begin with the basics:

• Government’s job is to work for us – not vice versa.

• Colorado is a collection of working families and business owners who comprise an economy.  We happen to have a government, which we elect. Colorado is not a government that happens to have an economy and five million citizens.

• We expect those we elect to make tough decisions with limited resources – just like we do everyday.

The problem with Colorado’s state budget is not that taxpayers are paying too little or that the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) is too restrictive.  The problem is that, over the last 10 years, the ruling Democrats have over-promised social welfare entitlements which are now devouring everything else. (more…)

Prosecution, Persecution & Government Intimidation

“I love my country, but I fear my government” once struck me as a bit paranoid.  However, recent accounts of citizens who’ve fallen into bureaucrats’ crosshairs is a reminder that “just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after me.”

Consider these examples of government run amok:

Oregan ranchers Steven and Dwight Hammond face five years in a federal prison after two controlled burns drifted past their property boundary and onto federal property.  Judges ruled that one fire might have caused $100 in damage to federal land while another “burned about an acre.”

Still, the Hammonds who, even prosecutors admit, “have done wonderful things in their community,” were prosecuted under a federal anti-terorrism law that mandates a five-year minimum sentence. (more…)

The sad state of freedom in America

Some 30 years ago, a common retort by my classmates when told that we could not do something was, “It’s a free country, isn’t it?”

I don’t hear that rhetorical question much these days.  Maybe that’s because the answer is changing before our very eyes.

One of my favorite restaurants posts a sign that was once common: “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”

Well, if they refuse service to someone who isn’t an able-bodied heterosexual white male, they’d better have a good lawyer and deep pockets defend themselves. (more…)

Public grows skeptical about cost of ‘Affordable Care’

Nobody likes the unknown, so it’s easy to understand why Americans are growing increasingly wary as the implementation of ObamaCare or, as it is formally known, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, draws near.

Although the law passed in 2010, many of the key components take affect within the next 15 months:

• Health insurance exchanges open on Oct. 1 and are supposed to help people compare competing plans and discover whether they qualify for a taxpayer-funded subsidy.

• Beginning in 2014, all Americans are required to be covered by health insurance which is approved by the federal government. (Many popular high deductible plans, which are less expensive, are not government-approved.)  Those who choose not to be covered will be required to pay a tax penalty to the IRS.  That penalty begins at $95 but grows to $695 or 2.5% of your income by 2016.

• Businesses with more than 50 fulltime employees are mandated to provide health insurance coverage to all employees who work 30 hours a week or more.  The law says that mandate begins in 2014, but President Obama issued an executive order stating that his administration would not enforce that provision until 2015.

Still, the public grows skeptical.  A USA Today/Gallup poll found that Americans disapprove of the health care law 53%-42%, with 41% describing themselves as “strongly opposed.”  Another poll found that 77% want the individual mandate delayed or repealed, including 49% who want the mandate killed outright. (more…)

Freedom flickers in recall of senators

After the stunning recall of two Democrat state senators who led the legislature’s lurch to the loony left, maybe there’s still hope for freedom in Colorado after all – but only if more Coloradans become fierce defenders of their freedoms.

The ouster of Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) and Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) was remarkable on many fronts. Never before has a sitting Colorado legislator been recalled. Even more impressive were overwhelming odds that recall proponents faced.

With very little outside help and ample skepticism from observers, two motivated groups of local citizens – Basic Freedom Defense Fund in Colorado Springs and Pueblo Freedom and Rights – worked their tails off on a shoestring budget to collect enough signatures to force two incumbents to justify why they should remain in office.

Those citizens later received substantial support from gun rights groups and others but were outspent 7-to-1 by backers of Morse and Giron. The incumbents’ machine unleashed a torrent of frivolous lawsuits to try to derail the election and raked in more than $3 million, including a personal check of $350,000 from gun-grabbing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Dethroning the senate president is satisfying mostly due to Morse’s unbounded arrogance, but the Pueblo result was refreshing because it re-affirms that Democrats in some locales still value core freedoms – unlike the Denver-Boulder variety who so often behave as if the only freedoms worth fighting for involve sex and drugs. (more…)

Students, teachers short changed by PERA bailout

As Colorado lawmakers consider an overhaul of the way the state funds K-12 education, more people are noticing that schools are increasingly forced to pay for the past rather than to invest in the future.

Our public schools must take money out of the classroom in order to pay for investment losses and unaffordable promises that have created a $25 billion shortfall in the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA).

In August 2012, Adams 12 School District teachers protested a 2 percent salary reduction enacted explicitly to offset the rising cost of PERA’s bailout plan.  For 2012-13, Adams 12 will pay $190 million in salaries, plus $36 million for PERA and Medicaid.

In 2010-11, Colorado Springs School District 11 paid $21 million to PERA, according to the Colorado Springs Independent.  Those payments, combined with funding reductions by the state legislature, led the district to close schools and make cuts that affected everything from textbooks to class size to suspending pay increases.

District 11 CFO Glenn Gustafson told the Independent: “To improve student achievement, it’s more important than ever to attract qualified and talented teachers. But we’re shifting a disproportionate amount of compensation to retirement benefits and health care.”

For 2011-12, my hometown Burlington School District RE-6J, with just 738 pupils, faced a $300,000 budget deficit – half of that amount caused by the cost of PERA’s bailout.  For 2012-13, the district decreased salaries by $54,399 but the mandatory PERA contribution increased by $38,594. (more…)

The President who cares mostly about himself

Richard Cohen, a reliably liberal columnist for the Washington Post, unloaded on Barack Obama in today’s op-ed. Not that he’s going to vote for Romney, but Cohen certainly hits the nail on the head about our Narcissist in Chief:

“Obama never espoused a cause bigger than his own political survival.”

“Bobby Kennedy showed his anger, his impatience, his stunned incredulity at the state of black America. Obama shows nothing.”

“Robert F. Kennedy’s appeal is obvious: authenticity. He cared. He showed it. People saw that and cared about him in return. With Obama, the process is reversed. It’s hard to care about someone who seems not to care in return.”

Ouch!  Any wonder the Left is depressed?  Even though they will still vote for him, they know Obama is an empty suit who only takes risks to try to ensure his own political survival.

Stop treating employers like adversaries

At a time when state legislators should be doing everything possible to encourage job creation, a bill working its way through the Colorado Legislature unfairly paints employers as unreasonable and untrustworthy.

Worse still, Senate Bill 3 gives trial lawyers another opportunity to sink their teeth into Colorado’s job creators – extracting “damages” where none exist and forcing employers to pay dearly just to prove their innocence.

Would it surprise you to learn that the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), just happens to be a trial lawyer with one of the state’s most high-profile firms?  Or that, at the bill’s first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee which Carroll chairs, not a single witness claimed to have been denied a job or a promotion as a result of a credit history check? (more…)