The largest battle Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will face in promoting his budget to the Joint Budget Committee, the state legislature as a whole, and to the public will come from the $375 million reduction in K-12 spending that comprises more than 65% of the total $570 million budget-cut projection total.

The question is what does Hickenlooper do if the entitlementistas in his own party don’t accept his budget plan? Will the pro-business governor hold his ground or fold?

It was to public sentiment that House Minority Leader Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, referred to in his comments to Hickenlooper on Tuesday. While Pace’s assertion of per-pupil funding levels in K-12 education is open to wide debate, the portion of the state’s general fund that is dedicated to funding is not in question. At just over 41 percent of the state’s general fund, and with the state facing a $1+ billion dollar shortfall, cutting the budget without touching K-12 education funding is, as the governor concluded, extremely difficult.

Just as he confronted Sen. Pat Steadman earlier in the hearing on the issue of state employees paying more into their own retirement, Pace was rebuffed by Hickenlooper in a way that made the Democratic governor look like a model of fiscal austerity, versus the whining entitlement sentimentality of his fellow Democratic party members.

Hickenlooper deflected calls from Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, and Rep. Pace for additional revenue through taxation - calling it a non-starter - and argued that a critical part of paying the bills for the future of K-12 education and all other government functions would be to foster a pro-business economic climate:

PACE: “Governor, as Sen. Heath touched on, we’re at the bottom of the pack in funding education already. By some estimates were 46th or 49th in K-12 expenditure on per pupil nationally. As a father, and I have two small kids who will soon be in the school system, I’m concerned about the decreased funding of K-12. And, at the very least, I think we as a state need to be aiming to be in the middle of the pack in funding. Funding alone isn’t going to fix our problems with schools, but there’s a certain level we have to fund in order to at least being doing a decent job.

“And, I want to ask you as governor, and someone who I know is committed to educating our kids and our future, what should we as legislators be telling constituents, what should we be telling voters, what should we be telling parents about the future of K-12 education? Where are we headed? Because in this proposal there is a very sizable cut to funding our school districts, but where are we going from here, what are the long-term plans? How do we guarantee to the people of Colorado that we are going to continue to invest in our kids and in our future?”

HICKENLOOPER: “I think we agree completely, as Sen. Heath said, there is no more important investment to be made than in our kids, and certainly making sure that they can get a successful education. No entrepreneur is going to want there business here, no one is going to want to build a company here if we don’t have a good education system.

“But we are in the middle of the worst recession in the country since the Great Depression. And it is affecting Colorado in ways we really are just beginning to fully understand. And obviously, 41 percent of the entire general fund budget is in education, and you have to make these size cuts, I’m not sure how you protect K-12 education. I just don’t . . . we could not find a way to do that.

“That being said, that is why we have stressed as we have for the last 10 months on the campaign and, literally, every day since then, that we have to figure out- again, it’s Colorado, we’re going to hold ourselves to the highest standards in protecting our land and waters, the highest ethical standards-but we have to be more pro-business.

“The only way we’re going to be able to guarantee that such a thing exists, to guarantee we’ll have the resources to give our kids great educations is to help our businesses sell more products, and hire more employees, help them to expand. That’s the single, absolute . . . Some people are going to argue we should be increasing taxes, some people say we should be increasing fees. In the end, the people of Colorado will decide that. My experience of touring around, up and down the Front Range and all across the state was that, in this economy, there is not a will of people to increase taxes. So, if that is true, and that’s my observation, and polls confirm that, I think that we have to be more pro-business”.

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2 Responses to “Hickenlooper wakes up Pace: Businesses pay the bills”

  1. rocksandbroncs Says:

    The Looper’s beginning to scare me. Is it possible I was wrong when casting my vote against him last November and this guy is not a far left regressive? To wit: [emphasis added]

    “a critical part of paying the bills for the future of K-12 education and all other government functions would be to foster a pro-business economic climate”

    This is a given and irrefutable. Now if we can only get those in the U.S. Senate and the White House to recognize this truth as well.

    Although the Gov may see economic reality it’s my considered judgment that he’s a regressive on all other issues.

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  2. Left’s view of Hickenlooper: afraid of “a modest tax increase” | WhoSaidYouSaid.com Says:

    [...] of Democratic legislators such as House Minority Leader Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, and Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, who questioned Hickenlooper’s budget priorities, after he [...]

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