As rank-and-file Republicans, we have a tendency to tear down the people we’ve long known and trusted about five minutes after they are elevated into “leadership.” It’s easy to forget that the “burden of leadership,” truly is a burden. Most notably, it’s burdened by the reality of the way things are, as opposed to the idealism of the way we wish them to be.

So, as a conservative who once carried that burden in a relatively minor way and who for the last decade has been quite content to rejoin the grassroots, I encourage my fellow Republicans to take time to consider why our party’s elected leaders sometimes make decisions that run counter to our first instincts.

After all, these are conscientious people who earned the trust of their constituents and their fellow lawmakers. They don’t grow horns the moment they are elected to leadership.

At the State Capitol, Senate President Kevin Grantham and Transportation Committee chair Sen. Randy Baumgardner recently signed onto a bipartisan proposal to increase funding for the state highways budget by asking voters for a 0.6-cent sales tax increase.

During my two terms in the Colorado Senate, I never voted to put a tax-rate increase on the ballot, but many years ago, I conceded that, if I were ever to consider doing so, it would be for transportation. That’s because the revenue generated by our state’s 22-cent gas tax (set in 1993) is relatively flat.

The gas tax is a per-gallon tax – not a percent tax, like sales tax. That means that factors like improved mileage, increasing use of hybrids, and (at times) high fuel prices reduce gas consumption and thereby reduce gas tax revenue.

In 2000, the state’s transportation budget was $1.4 billion; it didn’t reach that level again until 2015.

Republicans’ job is to keep frivolous tax increases off the ballot, but this proposal is hardly frivolous. It may not be perfect; it may not even be good. But we should give them a chance to explain their rare support of a tax proposal and then decide for ourselves.

(Incidentally, would you rather they propose a tax increase that’s popular or one, like this, that trails by 17 points in initial polls?)

Similarly, Republican leaders in Washington, D.C., are taking fire for their initial proposal to begin to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Republicans cannot ignore the chaos created by ObamaCare – unaffordable insurance premiums and exploding Medicaid entitlements. Those realities won’t be immediately reversed just because the law changes. The marketplace will take time to respond.

Significantly, however, the proposed bill caps Medicaid entitlement growth, returns authority back to the states, and repeals the individual mandate to buy insurance.

Repealing ObamaCare without simultaneously creating a framework for replacement with a market-based system is a recipe for disaster. Republicans have had six years to develop a replacement plan and will be responsible for the results. They must sort out their differences in the “sausage-making” process and get this right.

Republicans leaders should allow the legislative process to work without arbitrary constraints. GOP objectors should stop holding press conferences to point fingers at each other.

Casting symbolic votes is easy when you know your bills won’t become law; that’s when the details are less important than the message. Republican lawmakers at last have a chance to prove that they really do have “a better way” with ideas that work! If they fail, the blame will go to Republicans across the board, and the backlash will quickly reverse the gains of recent elections. Worse still, Democrats will move us toward a single-payer government-controlled system at their first opportunity.

Paul Ryan didn’t want to be Speaker of the House, but when no one else would shoulder the responsibility, he reluctantly agreed to do so. The plan he has introduced needs some work, but it’s a significant move in the right direction.

The time for showboating is over. Now, it’s time to get the job done for the good of the country.

13 Thoughts on “What are GOP leaders thinking?”

  • To fix O Care how about severe tort reform first. There are at least 10 ambulance chasing lawyers advertising their services on TV every day.

  • Mark Hillman I have enjoyed your writings for years. Although is seems with this article your all over the place.
    Let’s stay germaine to state transportation. In conservative manner let us (1) initiate a reduction in force of state transportation workers above the working level(tier) of M-3. (2) Lets create decentralization with new & fewer regions and a lot less managers. (3) Let’s contract or co-op out our rural highways with the counties or private sector businesses in those rural areas with the premise of getting the job done for a lot less money and bureaucracy. (4) Put the increases in tax or fees in the urban areas that utilize the lion share of the transportation budget. No taxation without representation from all 64 Colorado Counties.

    • As a former Montrose County Commissioner (Jan. 2009-Jan. 2017), I can tell you that the cost for CDOT to do a road or bridge project is easily TWO to FIVE times the cost of the County’s for the same project. I’ve seen the numbers first-hand!!

      The regulatory restrictions on CDOT as well as the Bridge Enterprise operation of the State which owns the bridges as well as all of the legislatively imposed environmental compliance rules have immensely increased the cost of the State and CDOT being able to stretch their dollars and driven the cost (per mile) for road construction or reconstruction through the roof.

      The deterioration in State highways and bridges is self-inflicted. The regulatory environment that kills small business owners is killing the productivity of the tax dollar. You don’t need a tax increase, you need to unshackle the bureaucratic and regulatory largesse that is killing our taxpayer funded agencies!

  • I just drove thru Denver area and new roads as well as old are being worked on every were. Here in Sterling Hwy 6 has been a mess for years but all I see is fill the holes on Division which is a state hwy. Granted west main was a major project but took many years to finally get approval. Hard to support tax increases when rural areas continue to struggle.

  • As I read this what runs through my mind is the fact that we Americans are taxed and insurance “premiumed” almost to death. My husband is a truck driver and we pay over the road taxes on top of the fuel tax. When we go to the store to shop, we already pay a 7% city tax AND a 4% County tax on top of that. I like what Jerry Flores proposes.

  • Colorado made millions off legal marijuana. What happened to that money. Nobody seems to know. I vote against this increase. Republicans always want to increase taxes. They also do things that are counter to what citizens feel is right and cause the very people who vote for them financial harm. Or worse start a costly war that cost the lives of our love ones.

    • Barbara, you say “Republicans always want to raise taxes.” Really? Please give me another example in Colorado in the last, say, 10 years.

  • There is no need to create a frame work to replace Obamacare. Send it back to the states and let them figure it out. The free market needs government out of the way not micromanaging it.

  • Mr. Hillman, that was a refreshing editorial on your part. I am so weary of the back and forth allegations in the media, the political “one ups manship” , seems like politicians are just sounding off, in order to make points with their constituants, or buddies. An example would be Al Franken, grilling Mr. Gorsuch… and NPR/CPR was playing the clip on several occasions all that day. One other way to raise highway repair/maintenance money, would be to limit funding of CPR in the State. Very few these days realize that maintenance, has got to be an on going process. And de-funding, CPR, and other “left leaning” programmes would be a start to better highway maintenance funding. National healthcare… I’d like very much to see the Republican version of ANY “healthcare bill” , the secrecy of the negotiations in Washington are troubling. I’m no lawyer, but rather a tradesman/technician, but any one that I associate with, has brains enough to sort through the content, if it were posted, published on the web, in a timely fashion. I’m reasonably certain, that there will have to be a “high risk pool”, that will need to be created and then subsequently subsidized by “us” the government, for those unfortunates with severe, or debilitating “pre-existing conditions”. But I see no reason to force citizens, to subsidize those who refuse to get insurance, or live an unhealthy lifestyle, placing them at higher risk of injury, or illness.

  • Did those billions go into the general fund or into a seperate untouchable highway and infrastructure (bridges) fund? By the way, I worked for the Highway department, CDOT, at Tower road and East Colfax as a mechanic, working on ancient equipment, in some cases they were so old we had to have parts made by a local machinist. Where did the funds go?

  • Mr. Hillman,
    We live only on Social Security and every year medical expenses go up, utilities go up, food goes up, gas goes up, insurance goes up, etc. Yet we don’t get a cost of living increase and now you want to raise our taxes
    Use the resources available like we are forced to and cut the state’s standard of living just like we are forced to.
    I will vote NO

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