Ritter’s idea of ‘freeze’ more like a ‘slushie’

by | Nov 6, 2009 | Notes

Walk into a typical third grade classroom, and most students can explain what means to “freeze” something.  They can explain that when water freezes it becomes ice and is solid.

“Little Billie” Ritter may have missed those lessons because, as governor, he regularly demonstrates a poor grasp of elementary science.

Remember in 2007, when Gov. Ritter and Democrats in the state legislature voted to “freeze” property taxes? Now, as most anyone who owns property can tell you, taxes haven’t been frozen at all.

Instead, Ritter froze the mill levy portion of your tax bill which had formerly been allowed to decline so that property taxes didn’t escalate as rapidly as property values.

And of course Ritter and his Democrat allies did this without even the “courtesy” of a public vote, despite a state constitutional requirement than any tax policy change that increases revenue must be submitted to voters.

The state supreme court’s balderdash that collecting more taxes really isn’t the same as a tax increase doesn’t make the $150 million cost to taxpayers any easier to swallow.

Ritter’s recent encounter with linguistic frostbite started last fall when, after months of denying that the state’s budget was speeding toward a cliff, he announced a “budget contingency plan” that included, quoting his own press release, “implementing a hiring freeze for the Executive Branch effective Oct. 1.”

Now it turns out, this freeze was more of a “slushie.”

In January, Denver Post’s Jessica Fender reported that despite Ritter’s claims that the hiring freeze had saved $12 million, “a review of hundreds of applications for exemptions shows that in three months, Ritter’s office approved 326 new hires and promotions — out of 371 requests — that could cost the state more than $12 million.”

Now, more than a year after the freeze was proclaimed, KMGH 7News’s Arthur Kane and John Ferrugia report that a state personnel database shows 2,300 new state employees hired.

Ritter’s chief of staff, Jim Carpenter, says the actual number is 1,454 but concedes, when questioned by Ferrugia, that “during the freeze, the number of employees actually went up.”

Analysis of the “database shows that in the three months before the (freeze), the state hired about 1,300 people and in the last three months of the freeze the state hired about 1,100 employees,” KMGH reports.

Maybe the governor can blame global warming for turning his hiring slushie into, at most, a cool breeze.

Sen. Al White, a Republican member of the Joint Budget Committee who is quite measured in second-guessing the governor, said that had Ritter’s office managed its hiring practices more effectively, “we may not have had to make some of the more dire cuts” necessary to balance the state’s budget.

Unfortunately, Ritter and his administration have never been adept at managing the state’s money, and no evidence suggests that they have learned from their mistakes.

Ritter has signed three state budgets, each adding at least 1,450 new state employees, despite budget woes.  By comparison, Gov. Bill Owens, who also endured some tough budget years, signed two budgets that actually reduced the number of state employees below the previous year’s level.

As late as December 2008, Ritter’s budget office grossly underestimated the looming budget shortfall, and even now, his administration somehow imagines $783 million more in tax revenues over the next three years, compared to more conservative projections by the legislature’s economists.

Ritter refused to throw his political clout behind proposals to build a state budget reserve fund when revenues were strong. But when revenues were already declining, he called for creation of an “unprecedented” new budget reserve.

Given his poor understanding of things physic and fiscal, perhaps the governor’s next move will be to institute a spending “freeze.”  If so, expect spending to instead accelerate even faster.

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