September 09, 2005
Salazar Misses the Point
Senator Ken Salazar sent out an email appealing for aid to Katrina victims containing the following line:
The victims of this terrible tragedy love this country, but their country has let them down.
Their country, on the other hand, has responded admirably and generously.
I had a chance to meet Bob Beauprez briefly in the runup to last year's elections, and to see him speak a few times as well. He's always struck me as an appealing figure, with a way of connecting to even large crowds, both feeding from and feeding their energy.
So when the RMA was invited to sit down and chat with him this morning, I was happy tp take the chance. Ben DeGrow was also able to make it, and between the two of us, perhaps we got a little better measure of where the campaign and the candidate stand at this point.
Right now, my overall impressions were of a very confident candidate, sure that he's the right man for both the office and the Republican party, with a good grasp of the basic issues and the politics involved. He understands why he's running, why he wants the job, why he thinks he can win. However, there's a point where the stump speech is going to have to be supplemented by specific policy proposals, even if nobody reads them. It may be too early in the campaign for that, lest they become a target and stale by inauguration time, but calls for substance eventually must be heeded.
Starting off with the politics, I asked Rep. Beauprez about his history as an executive, even though he's a legislator now. Specifically, I've been dismayed by the Republican inability to maintain a deep bench in the state. So, as the incumbent in one of the most competitive House districts in the country, what has he done about succession planning there?
He answered that he was well aware of the problem of succession planning in general, that he had taken great care to put the bank on such footing that it could survive his leaving it. And he was also well aware of the problems that the party was facing in the state on that score. In fact, that was a strong argument for his running, since he believed himself to be the strongest candidate in the state for governor, and that coattails would probably be essential to retaking the legislature, and protecting the Congressional delegation.
That is, while he might have been at risk in the 7th with a weak gubernatorial candidate, he believes he can help carry the seat top-down. In particular, he spoke highly of Rick O'Donnell, who now has four years of state experience and access to more money than he did when he lost to beauprez in 2002.
Cynics will point to his belief that he could well have lost the 7th, but will win the Governor's race as personal political survival, but I honestly think it's more of a happy confluence of interests. And with an executive background, it wouldn't surprise me that he'd be more comfortable as chief executive than as a legislator.
In response to Ben's question about what he brings to the race, and to the downticket candidates, the most interesting part of his answer concerned his legislative experience. Recent experience in Louisiana has shown the difference between a governor who uses his Washington connections efficiently, and state and local governments more interested in protecting their prerogatives. This affects not only disaster planning, but also Medicaid reform and illegal immigration.
Incidentally, Beauprez is one of the few sane Republicans I've seen who understands the potency of illegal immigration as an issue. I'll refer again to my sister in Georgia who almost never votes Republican, and almost never fails to bring it up as an issue.
On Ben's question about education, and specifically about First Class Education as a starting point, Beauprez hedged a little, but basically endorsed the idea, saying that he was "inclined" to support it. His only quibble was whether 65% was the right number, that is, how do we know it's not 62% or 70%?
To me, that's a perfectly reasonable way to object to issues where the government shouldn't be involved, as a way of pointing out the government's inability to micromanage. In this case, though, it seems like an objection that's better off dropped.
I do think Beauprez's got a grasp of the basic problems public education facing, and no rose-colored glasses on how we're doing. He proposes that parents need to get involved pre-K and pre-1, especially pre-3. He certainly understands that throwing cash at the problem won't make it go away. And he supports vouchers and choice as a means of letting teachers exercise their judgment, though one gets the sense that he's driven more by that outcome than by a voucher-ideology.
As for the one thing that could do the most good - increasing discipline in the classroom - the Rep. has no illusions about needing to fight that battle in the initiative process, since the ACLU and CEA keep winning court cases.
Interestingly, Beauprez sees the teachers as allies here rather than enemies, since they suffer almost as much as the kids. I think he may be understating the problem of an intractable CEA, hell-bent on opposing meaningful classroom reform, but given a couple of terms, and teachers willing to vote out union reps and union heads, who knows what can happen?
Not as a trick, but as a lead-in to the Big Question about Refs C&D, I asked about the cost side of higher education. Beauprez surmised without concluding that it had to do with a focus on research rather than teaching. I'd agree to some extent, but with two caveats. Economics tells us that if an industry doesn't get more efficient, its costs will rise as it becomes relatively less efficient. Since teaching now is more or less the same as it was 100 years ago, the costs are relatively higher. But I'd also strongly refer him to this article in the Wilson Quarterly.
Finally, C&D. He points out correctly that C&D raise $2 Billion for a stated $400 million problem, and that they don't actually solve anything. In fact, the problem is short-term liquidity, not long-term solvency or even income growth. So securitizing the tobacco settlement and leasing back some unused state property make sense to get past that.
As for the long-term issues, these short-term problems are only going to recur unless there's some systemic reform, which means rethinking all three parts of the Gallagher-Amendment 23-TABOR vise. Here's where there were no specifics. Beauprez's stated assets is his ability to run a primary race without alienating the opposition. Maybe after he's won the nomination, he can find a way to incorporate some of Holtzman's ideas into a general election platform.
On the whole, yes, I liked what I saw. It's still a long, race though; expect that whole style-vs.-substance thing to rear its head. Again.
August 25, 2005
Grover Norquist Visits
I had the pleasure of meeting Grover Norquist Monday night at a fundraiser for Save Our State, Rep. Joe Stengel's 527 devoted to defeating Referenda C&D, and restoring Republican majorities in the state legislature, in that chronological order. Of course, the only way we could get him to come was by temporarily renaming all Arapahoe County exits from I-25 for Ronald Reagan, but in spite of that, traffic didn't seem any worse than normal.
He came off as a someone who's extremely bright, extremely focused, and almost monomaniacally interested in poilitics. (Not megalomanically. Please, use a dictionary.) Privately, he spoke of the power of blogs, and the usefulness of conservative blogs coordinating with each other, as opposed to going it alone. Publicly, he raised a number of familiar points, such as the money from C&D going to fund Democratic precinct captains. But he also discussed some unfamiliar points that clearly come from a history of thinking strategically.
In the first place, he noted that certain political tendencies in the country continue to date from the post-Civil War period, but that they're breaking down, presenting both opportunities and risks for Republicans. The opportunities are still in the South, at the state level where Democratic machines continue to operate state legislatures.
The risks are in the Purple Band, running from Illinois to New York, where the party has put patronage ahead of ideas. The Illinois party has already collapsed from this nonsense, having to import a failed candidate from Maryland for last year's Senate race. New Jersey is in serious trouble, although the governorship may provide some opportunities. Pennsylvania is at risk, and Ohio and Long Island are playing mice to Illinois's Pied Piper. The Republican Party used to compete effectively or even win reliably in all these places. Even states that are trending Red, such as the upper midwest, aren't seeing the outright collapse of the Democrats. I'll note that it's also probably no coincidence that in many of these states, Republican governors have abandoned the national branding of the Party That Won't Raise Your Taxes. Because they have to fund their patronages.
He also noted the long-term trend of Red states gaining population relative to Blue states. When I brought up the idea that maybe the red states were gaining Blue population, he did note that this had happened in Vermont, but I'd also like to suggest that it could be happening in the Southwest as well. The good news, which we didn't have time to discuss, was a study I wish I could find that showed that the youth vote in red states tended to be more red than the state as a whole. Which means that those red states are likely to stay that way for the forseeable future.
He also discussed the West, happily noting the historical gerrymander (that's a joke, leftists) which gave us a series of rectangular states with populations of 3: two Republican senators and a Republican representative. There are gains to be made, especially still in South Dakota, where Tim Johnson now stands out as more liberal against John Thune's background than he did compared to Tom Daschle. Still, there are states like Montana that seem to be trending a little Blue, and that the upper Great Plains has a long history of populism that can be unpredictable at times.
From a business point of view, and the intersection of business with politics, Norquist noted that the rise in Republican voting among the middle class paralleled the rise in individual stock ownership. Don't think the Democrats fighting Social Security reform haven't noticed this.
He also noted insightfully that while in the past, people tended to own individual stocks, now they tend to own mutual funds. This aligns their interests with the economy as a whole, as opposed to with one company or one industry, and thus also with the nation's interests. He didn't take the next logical step and examine the uncomfortable effect that globalization has on those investors' interests.
Joe Stengel also spoke briefly about his efforts to create a Republican alternative to C & D, realizing that 2004 wasn't just about dumping money into four House seats, but also about a perception that the party had no ideas save obstruction. Chief among these is First Class Education, which would put a minimum 65% of education dollars into the classroom. The plan is broader than that, though, and indicates an understanding that for ideas, like candidates, you can't be something (however flawed and mischievous) with nothing.
Finally, one of the gubernatorial candidates was there. Holtzman has been vocally opposed to C&D from their ill-conception, but it remains to be seen how much that will help him next year around this time. The fact is, we need to learn from 2004's Senate race that being right doesn't always matter as much as connecting with people. And that's going to hurt him next year, not help.
On that score, Holtzman badly needs to hire a speech coach now. He motion is still unsure, stiff, and robotic. All of his hand gestures are either cramped or up-and-down, rather than out towards the audience. As a result, he doesn't project, he insists.
On the whole, I was pleased to see the party doing some thinking and planning, rather than just campaigning and running. Just over 2 months to go...
August 05, 2005
Can We Please Get Through One Week...
...without someone bringing up Nazi Germany in a political debate? I realize this is the gold standard for the corruption of a free society by unmixed evil, but good grief. George Will is fond of saying that American politics is played between the 40-yard-lines. If so, Nazi Germany and Stalin's USSR leave about enough room for you to slip a credit card between the goal line and the nose of the ball. Right now, the country's probably on the right hash mark of the 45-yard-line.
There's something wrong about invoking Nazis to condemn a practice permitted by Jewish law. I know we don't own every atrocity committed by Hitler - so many untermenschen, so little time. But you need to stop and think about what it is you're saying, what positions you're taking.
I personally think that if we can use adult stem cells instead - and right now, there's no reason to think we can't - then we should. But a long a venerable Western religious tradition says otherwise, and it doesn't make the Talmud a manual for baby-killing.
July 25, 2005
Good Fundraising News
The Rocky is reporting that the GOP candidates for governor are way ahead of their Democratic counterparts in fundraising.
One advisor does suggest that a lack of enthusiasm on the Democratic side may have something to do with this.
July 17, 2005
The Joys of Federalism
One of the pleasures of a federal system is that every state does things just a little bit differently. John Andrews writes first to correct an error. Gov. Owens did in fact appoint the oft-dissenting Justice Coats, so this would be his second appointment, not his first.
As to the process of appointing state Supreme Court Justices, apparently a nominating commission recommends three candidates, of whom the governor gets to pick one. There's no further immediate review, but the voters must approve the new Justice for a 10-year term, in the first even-numbered year after the appointment.
The membership of the nominating commission is quite remarkable:
The chief justice of the supreme court chairs the commission and is a non-voting member. This commission includes one citizen admitted to practice law in Colorado and one citizen not admitted to practice law residing in each of the state’s seven congressional districts, and one additional citizen not admitted to practice law in Colorado.
The idea of deliberately including non-lawyers at the highest levels of the process is heartening. Giving them an outright majority takes checks and balances to practically Athenian levels.
I would point out, though, that Justice Coats was appointed in 2000, a little over a year into Governor Owens's first term. I assume the terms are staggered, so the membership of the nomination commission would still be overwhelmingly holdovers from Gov. Romer's tenure. This would be the first Justice appointed using players Gov. Owens had recruited, so to speak.
July 15, 2005
Madame Justice Kourlis?
While Justice Kourlis was appointed by Gov. Roy Roemer in 1995, she has tended to be a strict constructionist and a proponent of judicial restraint. She wrote the dissent when then-Attorney General Ken Salazar went to bat for his party, getting the courts to usurp the redistricting power of the legislature. From that dissent:
I fundamentally disagree. Courts cannot be lawmakers under Article V of the Colorado Constitution. Courts do not enact or create laws; courts declare what the law is and what it requires. To hold otherwise violates the clear language of Article V and also the mandates of Article III of the Colorado Constitution, which delineates the separation of powers among the three coordinate branches of Colorado government.
And in what's frequently a loser these days, she argues that the Colorado Supreme Court should have held off for a while:
I also note that I do not believe that this court should ever have chosen to accept original jurisdiction in this case. At the time this court did so, there was a case pending in the Denver District Court that raised all of the issues before us now, plus a variety of other legal and factual issues. If that case had been allowed to proceed, the trial court would not only have addressed all disputed issues of fact but would also have ruled on all legal theories presented by the plaintiffs. In that situation, we would be in a position to resolve the issues with a full factual record. By taking this case when we did, we unnecessarily circumvented the normal process of case resolution, and limited ourselves to addressing the constitutional issues first rather than as a last resort.
Interestingly, she also dissented in the case that overturned Colorado's voucher law on the pretext that that law violated local control over schools. Her dissent contained this paragraph:
Further, although I agree that this court authored four cases dated between 1915 and 1931 that appear to equate local control over instruction with local control over educational tax dollars, in my view, the court has already moved away from that strict formulation in our more recent cases and it would be inconsistent with those modern cases to hold the Pilot Program unconstitutional.
This would seem to place her more in the Scalia mold than the Thomas mold, since she relies on more recent precedent rather than an originalist reading of the state Constitution here. In both cases, though, she opts for actually reading the Constitution instead of making it up as we go along.
If there's one drawback to Justice Kourlis's career, it's that the words "Justice Kourlis joins Justice Coates in the dissent" appear frequently in Supreme Court opinions. No doubt some will complain that by not surrendering to the Will of the Majority, she doesn't play well with others. Naturally, there's no actual evidence of a personality disorder, just a penchant for sticking to principle.
As a side-note, this would create Governor Owens's first chance to appoint a State Supreme Court Justice. He could do worse, than MoHo, the Honorable Morris Hoffman of Colorado's 2nd District. Hoffman wrote the opinion in Common Cause's attempt to disrupt the 2004 elections by counting every ballot, valid or not. He's respected, and has a reputation in the legal community for doing his homework and taking his cases seriously.
On the downside, I have no idea how common it is for a judge to jump to the State Supreme Court straight from a district court. And while the governor would be replacing one conservative justice with another, I also don't know how obstreperous the Senate Democrats would choose to be. My personal guess is that with an 18-17 majority, there are any number of sane Senators willing to be reasonable.
June 22, 2005
What Do They Stand For?
The folks over at ProgressNow are having a little identity crisis.
Some are talking about how we can "frame" our issues better. Others are arguing over a list of common values or positions. But it's really the same conversation -- What do we stand for?
So, in the spirit of the conservative manifesto The Wisdom of Crowds (although one might be tempted to question the wisdom of this crowd), they've thrown the floor open for suggestions.
Well, when an old boss like JB calls for help, how can I refuse?
"To succeed, we need to be able to answer such a question during an elevator ride."
No, not because by the time they finish, people will be fighting over the emergency phone and lifting each other through the maintenance panel on the ceiling.
Because with them, it really is still about words, not ideas.
May 13, 2005
The RMA Recaps With the Governor
As Clay has mentioned, several members of the RMA had the distinctive opportunity to meet with Governor Owens yesterday and recap the legislative session. We had been told we'd get 30 minutes, but the Governor graciously extended that to over an hour. Besides Clay and I, Kestrel and Mr. Virtus attended, contributing far more insight than I to the conversation.
As with Clay, I'll reserve my comments until I've had a chance to consider them, but I'm afraid that this blog, and its purple houses, may yet contribute in some small way to a gubernatorial veto. The issue is still undecided...
May 10, 2005
Short on Time
Even if I'm short on time, as long as the Reactionaries are around, I'm never short on material.
We all know (cough, cough) that there shouldn't be a religious test for public office. Today finds the Reactionaries shedding crocodile tears over a church that wants to establish an Official Politics. I agree completely.
And then, laying their mud foundation for next year's Governor's race,
According to an independent campaign finance website, www.tray.com, Rep. Beauprez has taken $29,901 from embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority or "ARMPAC".
Given that one of Hillary's chief fundraisers has actually gone to trial, I'm sure we'll be seeing a call soon for Ken Salazar ($10,000) and the Colorado Democratic Party ($10,000) to return their money to HillPAC.
I'd add Tom Strickland ($10K) and Mike Feeley ($5K) to the list, but there's no point, I suppose...
April 11, 2005
Coffman Bows Out
State Treasurer Mike Coffman has decided not to run for Governor, after all, apparently conceding the ground to Representative Bob Beauprez of the 7th District. The Post speculates that he'll run for Beauprez's seat instead. This would imply that Beauprez has all but decided to run. DU President Marc Holtzman is still in the race, for the time being, but Beauprez's star power in the party is probably too much for him.
I can't say I'm entirely thrilled about this turn. The 7th is still closely-divided, and has become, if anything, slightly more Demcratic since it was formed, although the margin is only a couple of thousand voters. Beauprez could hold that seat as long as he liked, and is now on the Ways and Means Committee.
On the other hand, taking back the legislature is not going to be easy, and the party may be judging that having a Democratic governor and General Assembly is more dangerous to your wallet than losing one house race.
Naturally, we're still getting the warnings from the usual scolds that the reservoirs aren't full, and that the Platte snowpack is below normal. All this is true, and we'll still have to put up with watering restrictions this year.
What bothers me is terminology. "Drought" is a meteorological condition. "Shortage" is an economic one. The "drought" is, in fact over, as has been for some time. The water shortage is likely to go on, as it has for the last, oh, 150 years or so.
Look, almost the entire state's snowpack is back over 100%. You don't go from below-normal to above-normal without above-normal snowfall. In business terms, "drought" is an income-statement problem, while the "shortage" is on the balance-sheet.
The water managers are essentially accountants in this matter, and they have a healthy accounting conservatism. But use of the word "drought" to mean a 5-year period, in which exactly one year's precip fell below average is political. It's intended to scare people, and to stampede them into accepting permanent and unnecessary changes in lifestyle, when a few well-placed water projects could solve the problem for generations. In fact, by referring to the "5-year drought" or "ongoing drought," these reactionaries take water projects off the table altogether, since you can't really save what's not coming down in the first place.
Look, Coloradoans have done some silly things with our water. We're not living inside Bio-Sphere II, and we can't just plop down maples and crabapples and Kentucky blue-grass and think it's not going to cost anything. I've xeriscaped a portion of the front yard where the grass was struggling (naturally, now it's invited itself in) and any re-seeding has been with fescue. The washing machine is a front-loader, which uses less water. The actual cost of water is still pretty low, as a portion of the monthly budget, lower than the cable bill, for instance.
Still, you can only achieve so much by savings; fixing old reservoirs and even building a few new ones is just common sense. Calling a non-drought a drought is just dishonest. It's typical of the enviro-left that they can't win without these distortions. It's also typical that there's plenty of middle ground they don't care to explore.
March 30, 2005
The Pill Bill
The Colorado Legislature has passed a bill requiring all hospitals to tell rape victims about "emergency contraception," basically pills that abort a potential pregnancy. It's on the governor's desk now.
Naturally, the Post treats this like a personal religious crisis for Owens, ("Pill Bill to Test Owens"), as though he were Roger Williams or Brigham Young. Apparently, the notion that there might be non-religious reasons for respecting other peoples' religious practice is something that Post editorial policy can't quite get its arms around. Apparently, the Post can't abide someone's political beliefs coinciding with his religious beliefs.
During Tuesday's debate in the House, [bill sponsor Betty] Boyd said the bill covers institutions, not individuals. Individual medical workers could opt to have someone else tell a patient about emergency contraception, she said.
Oh, that's persuasive. As though institutions weren't permitted to hold and exercise a point of view. Let's try applying that logic to the public schools some time, and see how far that gets you with Rep. Boyd.
Orthodox Judaism takes a different view of an embryo from Catholicism. Until implantation, the embryo has no status, and even then, the status is at best murky for 40 days. Denver doesn't happen to have any hospitals under rabbinical supervision, but even Hadassah in Jerusalem would be able to abide by the new bill in good conscience.
This isn't about my own position on the matter. It's about Church-run hospitals having the right practice medicine in a manner consistent with their own beliefs.
March 18, 2005
In what had to be a bone-jarring moment for Mike Coffman and Marc Holtzman, the crowd here just applauded enthusiastically for Bob Beauprez's presumptive Gubernatorial candidacy in 2006.
March 14, 2005
Alert Barry Lynn!
This is a Jewish site, so with all due respect to my fellow RMA bloggers, I don't tend to throw a lot of crosses onto the blog. Still, I really thought the Progressives, the ACLU, Americans United for Division, etc., should know about this. As always, click to enrage - er, enlarge.
March 07, 2005
Colorado Election Numbers
Ben Degrow cites Ted Halaby's campaign letter for National Committeman, and its notation that Republicans outpolled Democrats by 36,000 votes in state legislative races.
As they say on that other radio network, "Let's do the numbers."
I totaled up the State House of Representatives votes going back to 1996. This was by far the worst aggregate showing for Republicans in the list. For simplicity's sake, I only counted percentages for the Republicans and Democrats. The only time other parties have a decent showing is when one of these two is absent from a race.
In percentage terms, the Republicans beat the Democrats by 1 point this year. Going backwards, they won in prior years by 13, 13, 16, and 23 points in 1996. The Democrats didn't win a majority in either House or Senate races, and most of their candidates won by running as centrists, so this hardly constitutes a "new progressive majority" by any standard. Indeed, as the Democrats seem to have as hard a time counting their own votes as they do counting election ballots, it's not even clear there's a progressive majority within their own party.
But it also means that the move was more than the "technical win" cited by Dick Wadhams and other party activitst. (This doesn't mean there isn't a lot of party-building work to do; it just makes it a necessary but insufficient condition for winning.)
Ben also points out that the aggregate vote, much like the national popular vote, is meaningless when it comes to doling out committee chairmanships (or Presidencies). In fact, the Republicans in the state have historically won 3-5 seats fewer than would be predicted by their vote total. (Since Colorado apportions legislative seats by a nonpartisan commission, my guess is that it's highly unlikely this is a deliberate result. In Minnesota, traditionally a Democratic stronghold, they've run several seats ahead of their vote total for the last few elections.)*
Both Ben and Clay are supporting Bob Schaffer for the post, and it would certainly help heal some of the divisions from the last election. One question is: how much will Schaffer's undercutting of Ramey Johnson be held against him?
*In calculating the expected number of wins, I use Bill James's "Pythagorean Method," which pretty accurately predicts a baseball team's wins based on the number of runs scored/run allowed. He uses the square of the number of runs, and comes much closer to actual records. Since each seat would represent a "win," my working hypothesis is that this formula works better than a straight percentage. I'm actually going to spend some time rounding up numbers from around the country and seeing what works best.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
Colorado does not redistrict by nonpartisan commission. Redistricting is handled by a bi-partisan committee of legislators, and must be passed through the legislature like any other law. Which means in the 1980 and 1990 redistricting rounds, it had to pass two republican-held chambers and be signed by a democratic governor. In the 2000 redistricting round, it had to pass through a democratic-controlled Senate and republican-controlled House, and be signed by a republican governor. The legislature failed to accomplish this by the end of session, and so the process had to be adjudicated in the courts - by a highly partisan, democratic judge that chose a set of maps drawn by the state Democratic Party.
He is correct, although the state redistricting has usually gone smoothly, and wasn't the source of 2002's rancor.
February 28, 2005
Paden for Golden
This means that her campaign is taking contributions, for one thing.
Barbara was a blogger before she was a candidate, so her campaign blog should be good reading in its own right, as opposed to most politicans' blogs. That alone is reason to help out.
February 24, 2005
In a debate on Senate Bill SB05-152, which would prevent municipalities from directly building telecom networks and competing with private companies, committee chairman Sen. Deanna Hanna was heard to ask one opponent of the bill, "What's Wifi?" Way to do your homework, Senator.
Glenn Fleishmann has written eloquently and persuasively about the need to keep open the option of municipal wifi networks, and the attempts by various state legislatures to foreclose the option.
My own inclination is that governments shouldn't be competing against private industry where it's at all avoidable. The inherent regulatory conflicts of interest are too obvious. DU Professor Ron Rizzuto reiterated his study that municipal telecom networks almost never pay for themselves, but that the temptation to mix in funds from, say, the electric utility, is too tempting. In the long run, such services tend to benefit from relaxed treatment, and deliver substandard service at a high, hidden cost.
That said, a blanket ban on municipal or county telecom networks is probably a mistake. The argument comes down to what a utility is, and what the government's role in providing that utility should be. I do believe that wifi will quickly become a utility, just as cellphone service has in the last decade or so. Such a utility could be quite profitable in a large city like Denver or Boulder. But small towns and rural areas might want access, as well. There, the co-op model already provides electricity and water, and in some cases phone service, without competing with an non-existent incumbent.
In the end, my main goal is to get all the phone poles torn down, and have us all using VOIP, anyway, so whatever speeds that transition has my ear. Locking out an option on principle rather than experience seems a little hasty.
February 23, 2005
DU CR CPAC
By a quirk of fate, DU College Republicans meet right after my risk management class in the same room. It turns out that a bunch of them went to CPAC, and I got a chance to see what about the conference a set of enthusiastic, starstruck Republican undergrads found most interesting.
The five students who attended were Charlie Smith, Conor McGahey, Melanie Harmon, Dan Cutts, and Nichole Walker (who wasn't in school, but in the hospital instead).
The biggest hits were Newt, Ann Coulter, Wayne LaPierre, and Ken Mehlman. Mehlman pointed out that the Dems met all of their vote goals - they just got outvoted. The Republicans, having more real estate to work with, were able to get 1 or 2 more votes per precinct and out-gain the Dems enough for a decisive win.
I asked them about their impressions for '08, and all four of them pointed to George "The Future Is Now" Allen. Allen's speech was apparently very successful, very forward-looking and optimistic. And while he's a Senator now, he has been governor of Virginia, which gives him an executive mentality lacking in most legislators. Plus, he went to a very good school.
Sounded like they have a terrific time, and came back charged up and ready to continue the fight.
Foot in the Door
Friend of the Alliance, Barbara Paden, AKA Girl in Right, is just a few signatures short of a ballot line.
No, really. She's trying to make the leap from the commentariat to the secretariat, running for a vacant seat on the Golden City Council, and she needs just a few more signatures to guarantee a line.
If you live in Golden, and are eligible to vote, and are registered to vote, and aren't a felon, and don't expect to get paid for your signature, please stop by, or contact her campaign (303-525-1503), and she'll make arrangements to collect your signature.
February 21, 2005
Baby You Can Drive My Car
Now, let's see. I work during the week. I can't go test-drive cars on Saturday. It's illegal for a dealership to sell me a car on Sunday. Read that again. Walking through a large parking lot tell me nothing - < DeNiro as Capone Voice >nothing < /DeNiro as Capone Voice > - about the car. Which means that I have to take time off work to go buy a car, if I want to see it by anything brighter than the light of the silvery moon. What's more, if I owned a car dealership, I'd need to be closed both Saturday and Sunday.
Others said most dealerships don't want to open Sundays because it gives employees the day off and levels the competition if all lots are closed. Others said it gives consumers a day to look at cars without salespeople hovering over them.
This doesn't have anything to do with employees' religious observance. I realize that most car salesmen could use all the time in church they can get, but my guess is that this isn't where most of the are going. It has to do with car companies keeping their costs down, helped out by the government. While a specific car may be something of an impulse buy, my guess is that most people and business that are going to buy cars are going to buy them anyway. So the dealerships know they can stay closed and still make the same number of sales.
We have a chain of hobby stores here called "Hobby Lobby." You know, they sell frames and mirrors and cardboard and ribbons and buttons and bows. They're closed on Sunday. Michael's, the national chain, isn't. Hobby Lobby believes in this enough to take the hit. Why does Freeway Ford get a free pass?
I want to see people in church on Sunday, too, but if they're in church, they're not out buying the cars, either. Seriously, if an auto dealership advertised itself as "Sundays-off, Family-friendly," and if that mattered to people, which it clearly does, then they could make a point of shopping there.
Tell you what. Give 'em Wednesday off, and don't open until noon on Sundays. Or, if you're close on Saturdays, you don't have to be closed on Sundays.
Either that, or get The Progressives to propose a bill requiring that employers give employees time off to go buy a car. Heh.
UPDATE: Bill Scanlon of the Rocky replies to an email, "Rep. Weissman pushed it, knowing it would fail, but wanting to see how much support it would have. He said he though he had 29 votes. The voice vote seemed to indicate that he had about that many, although a later formal vote indicated that he only had 13."
So this was clearly bipartisan nannying.
February 20, 2005
A Poll Too Late
About a week ago, the Washington Post reported on how The Commute is faring in my old hometown. ("Painful Commutes Don't Stop Drivers", and accompanying poll.) If anything, things seem to have deteriorated even further since I left, and the traffic was one of the aggravating factors in my leaving.
Unfortunately, I seem to be a carrier, because the Denver area seems destined to repeat DC's mistakes. I wish this article and survey had been available last year when our friends at the Independence Institute were trying to persuade us that FasTracks was a mistake.
The one thing they seem most unwilling to do is give up their cars, so they accept long and frustrating commutes as the price for other lifestyle choices.
Naturally, the people are making "all the wrong choices." Yes, I agree. Foremost among those wrong choices was an expensive below-ground subway system that was obsolete as soon as it was approved. It's completely unequipped to handle cross-county commuting, and it ends in what are now the inner suburbs. It picked winners and losers, can't possibly have nearly enough spokes or parking to be near enough people to be worthwhile or convenient.
Blaming people because they'd rather sit in their own private car, listening to what they please, rather than sweat it out, lurching along with a few dozen co-commters in tunnels where they can't call to say they'll be late? Yes, that's the worst of the bureaucratic mentality at work. Everyone is just making that "wrong choice" that they'd rather have flexibility and comfort, even at the price of a long, unpredictable commute. That's not a "wrong choice," that's a "trade-off."
Sadly, even Washingonians don't seem to have learned the lesson:
Solid majorities of area residents polled support a variety of big-ticket items to help ease traffic congestion, from extending Metro to Dulles International Airport to building an intercounty connector in the Maryland suburbs. Half would even be willing to pay higher gasoline taxes to fund transportation projects, compared with a third nationally.
I suspect the same flawed logic is at work here as built Metro in the first place, and that led to FasTracks: we'll build this, and that will get everyone else off my road.
Look, Maryland has been a terrible roadblock back there. A lot of DC's congestion is through truck traffic that has no place to go but the Beltway. DC won't finish I-95 through the city; and Maryland has blocked both eastern bypasses (to permit I-95 traffic to flow around the city), and western bypasses (to let other I-95 traffic connect with I-70 or I-270). Next time a shipment of nails from Birmingham bound for Camden spills and turns Northern Virginia into a parking lot for 10 hours, send your complaints to Annapolis.
One big reason that drives are longer here is that traffic tie-ups are far more frequent. Nearly 6 in 10 commuters say they get tangled up in traffic jams at least once a week. And more than 1 in 4 -- 28 percent -- said they encounter serious tie-ups every day, compared with 9 percent of commuters nationally.
Inconsistency is a classic symptom of a system operating near the edge.
"Sometimes it's just plain scary," said Danitza Valdivia, 31, a project assistant who lives in Northwest Washington and works near MCI Center -- a four-mile commute as the crow flies that takes her a half-hour to negotiate. "I get to work and have to take a coffee break before I start my workday."
The last few times I've gone back to DC, it's been Highway Culture Shock. I had forgotten how erratic the drivers are there. Of course, this doesn't get them more than a few car lengths during the course of an hour, and is probably responsible for a fair number of the accidents and tie-ups.
There's no question that traffic here is worse, and the drivers more aggressive than they were eight years ago when I moved here. Still, people assimilate. It's rare to get beeped at for not jack-rabbiting off a green light, for instance.
Still, it's still a manageable problem. C-470/E-470 is helping, and plans to widen US-36 between Denver and Boulder are an absolute must.
People are not going to get out of their cars, by and large.
February 16, 2005
Update on HIV Bill
Senator Windels has apparently decided (or been advised) that her bill, as written, isn't going to work.
The Judiciary Committee has held it over indefinitely.
February 15, 2005
The self-proclaimed Progressives (I like Bainbridge's point that they're Leftists hijacking the word "progressive") are throwing their - weight - behind a bill to require all contractors to the state to perform their work in the US. SB-05-023 is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Deanna Hanna (D-Westminster).
The bill provides for a pre-contract certification, penalties if any of the work is shifted overseas, the right for the state the sue, and a 3-year lockout from future contracts if any work is offshored.
There are plenty of good macroeconomic reasons for offshoring work:
In July, economist Martin N. Baily, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Clinton, looked at who benefits from outsourcing. He found that... on balance, the U.S. economy gains $1.12 to $1.14 for every $1 invested in outsourcing.
(Hat Tip: EconLog)
And plenty of reasons to think that the only "deflation" is of leftist economic trial balloons.
More importantly, it's terrible budget sense. It all seems so reasonable. But for a gang that got elected promising to be fiscal conservatives, this ain't cheap.
Every bill has to have a Fiscal Impact Summary, describing, well, fiscal impact. This one doesn't even bother to estimate the costs, because they can't:
This bill may increase expenditures for a number of state agencies that contract for services with companies that perform services from sites located outside the United States. In most cases, the increases are not quantifiable, but stem from either (1) the limitation of vendor competition, or (2)
Here's anecdotal evidence:
Department of Personnel and Administration. The bill would affect the Division of Information Technology. Currently, the state's main central processing unit is made by IBM, whose primary support service headquarters is located in Asia. This bill would prohibit the state from obtaining any technical support with regard to the CPU. The division also utilizes two important software packages that are produced in London and Israel, respectively. This bill would affect the division's ability to both utilize and receive technical service on these packages.
Look, it's not like this kind of this hasn't been tried before. It's been very costly. And just remember whose capital it is that's going to fund this.
I will give them points for proper use of the term "paleocon," something that frequently eludes the Left, which suggests that maybe these guys are coachable, even if they do choose to associate themselves with the conservative economic illiterates.
Say it with me: Progressively More Expensive. Progressively More Intrusive. Progressively More Restrictive.
Oh, And About That Cigarette...
The health mullahs move forward. Having spent the better part of a century trying to get the government out of the bedroom, the Progressives (sic), are now using "health concerns" wedge their way back into it. Tomorrow, Sue Windels's bill to make having AIDS and having sex a crime comes up for a hearing in the Judiciary Committee.
Michael had noted this before, as well as suggesting a possible disparate impact objection.
After the bill defines "sexual intercourse," it goes on to make an exception if the infected tells the soon-to-be-infected beforehand. Romantic as that sounds, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before strict liability forces bars to keep a small quiet table in the corner reserved for the notary public.
And then there's this debate going on over at Legal Affairs (hat tip: the Instapundit).
Say it with me: Progressively more expensive. Progressively more intrusive. Progressively more restrictive.
"Hi, Are You Registered to Vote..."
Evidently, the LPR is beginning to fulfill its mission. A Friend of the Alliance is now seeking to be a Friend of the People. Girl in Right, who hails from the Golden State but now lives in Golden, CO, is preparing a run for City Council.
Golden, for those of you who don't know, was the first territorial capital of Colorado, and is now an adjuct to the Colorado Mills Mall...
Hat Tip: Clay
February 14, 2005
I asked State Treasurer Mike Coffman why leaving early and collecting PERA benefits made a difference to the state. It seemed to me that if you weren't accumulating seniority, you might start getting benefits early, but they'd be lower than if you waited.
Turns out there are two cases where that's not true. A friend of mine pointed out that after 25 years, PERA benefits don't increase. Which means that someone double-dipping really is costing the system money.
In the case Coffman cited to me, under PERA, you can buy years of benefits ahead of time. The problem is that until recently, the discount rate used to estimate the pre-payment was so high that it didn't cover the costs. If I pre-pay assuming that the government will make 8%, but it can only return 5%, the pension plan will be on the hook for the extra 3% in a defined-benefit plan.
I should also point out that Coffman has bond immunized College Invest, a pre-paid college tuition plan that had fallen short of its projected needs. By buying bonds to match known outgoing cash flows, Coffman has made sure that the system can cover those flows. Presumably the fund managers will still have to work at rebalancing from time to time, but that's a much easier job that playing catch-up.
Clay has a superb report from the Leadership Program of the Rockies retreat. A terrific lineup. The LPR people did a dynamite job of pulling in the top-rank talent from across the country, the people really contributing ideas.
I've only met Jim Spencer once, and he was pleasant enough, but I think the group was much better-served by having Littwin there. Even though they're both Virginians, and Tidewater Virginians, at that.
February 09, 2005
This, from Treasurer Mike Coffman:
State Capitol-State Treasurer Mike Coffman on Monday requested that Michael McArdle, Director of the Division of Labor for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, investigate two potential violations of Colorado's Independent Contractor regulations.
This is a problem. This is a problem because 1) these people are, to all intents and purposes, still employees doing their old jobs, 2) they're collecting both salary and pension while working. I overheard a conversation back in January to this effect, from people who seemed to be discussing it approvingly. It seemed - not right - then, and I glad to see that someone is looking into it.
Coffman does make two points, though, that I'm not sure I understand. He claims that the counties are 1) avoiding paying payroll taxes and 2) avoiding paying into PERA. My understanding is that PERA benefits might not be due at this point, but that the employee technically wouldn't be accruing any more of them. Also, if the county isn't paying payroll taxes, then someone must be, probably the employee's S-corp that he's set up. So I'm uncertain how the state, or even the other counties, lose out here.
That said, it certainly doesn't smell good.
In a move all but guaranteed to get them into Virginia Postrel's next book, Democrats in the state Senate are pushing a bill to require businesses to give employees time off to attend their children's school events.
Talk about micromanaging! When a law has this many exceptions, caveats, details, and exemptions, it's a pretty good sign that it's a pretty bad idea. It's a simple idea. So simple, in fact, that most adults can probably be relied on to figure out the details for themselves.
UPDATE: A couple of requests to explain myself. Here's the problem. Look at the number of caveats applied to this very simple notion. The legislature is clearly trying to capture all the contingencies that might affect the appropriateness of the law. But I can think of 5 or 10 more without breaking a sweat, and I'll bet you can, too. And I can think of social trends that could make the law either intrusive or unnecessary.
The problem with passing a law to deal with micro-issues like this is that it's entirely too easy to make a mistake, and the only way to undo it is to amend the law or repeal it. If you're looking for an imperfect solution, there are far more flexible and responsive ways to get there.
February 01, 2005
Judging Financial Impact
By law, any piece of proposed legislation must be assessed for the future financial impact on the state, looking at project effects on both taxes and spending. Like this assessment of this seemingly innocuous bill, for instance.
Now, Representative McCluskey and Senator Lamborn are proposing that Colorado adopt Dynamic Modeling to assess these effects for tax policy changes at the request of the Assembly leadership. This made quit a stir when the national Republicans started using it for changes at the Federal level a few years ago.
It makes sense. While models are inexact, the fact is that by projecting out straight-line, you're already using a model, just a lousy one. People do adjust their behavior based on tax incentives; the entire tussle over securitizing the tobacco revenue stream is predicated on this fact.
Democrats tend to dislike this sort of analysis, because it inevitably shows that higher tax rates depress business activity, and therefore revenue, in the long run. Again, beyond a certain point, this is a fact. Even the Tsar is having to sell his plan by using language like, "lowering the income tax rate and keeping the extra money it generates" (emphasis added).
One peculiarity is the limitation to 10 bills a year. There's no specific mention as to whether or not the leadership will have to throw a red flag, or if they'll be assessed a timeout.
So far the bill is still in committee. I'll try to find out more about its status.
January 27, 2005
Your Tax Dollars at Work
Ward Churchill, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, wrote this (among other things) after the September 11, 2001 attacks:
It states: "The most that can honestly be said of those involved on Sept. 11 is that they finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed to their people as a matter of course."
He also goes on to claim that the US has "killed 500,000 children to impose its will on other countries," a number whose source was apparently neither given nor asked for.
When CU comes back to the state for more money, or want to raise tuition, someone should ask why this guy's still on the payroll.
Words Mean Things
The folks over at the RMPN are having a grand old time rounding up folks who think Wayne Allard has better things to do that protect marriage as we know it.
Now, everyone's entitled to their priorities. Rep. Boyd (D-Lakewood) wants to eviscerate the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, for instance. So if the self-styled "progressives" want to play litigator, arguing budget when they don't have the social issues, and social issues when they don't have the budget, that's their business.
But words mean things, and it says a lot about their world-view that the only reason they can imagine that someone would oppose gay marriage is "hate." There's a vast online literature documenting the healthy debate on the right (as opposed to the monolithic approval of the Left) over this issue. I don't believe I've ever seen anything approaching hatred of gays be even hinted at in, say, National Review Online's Corner.
It's a straw man, designed to cow opponents into explaining themselves, or better yet, silence. Opposing gay marriage doesn't mean I hate gays, any more than opposing affirmative action means I hate blacks. Like so much the Left has done over the years to debase the currency of language, this posturing is designed to mark out more and more space and unfit for debate. They might admire what that approach has done for the political culture of Europe, but I don't.
January 26, 2005
Clay's got the text of a letter concerning what at least is carelessness and at worst borders on criminal neglect. Honestly though, it makes your eyes roll more than anything else.
I remember watching a tape years ago of a British reporter interviewing some government flunky at the site of a particularly dangerous piece of highway. Naturally the flunky was denying there was any problem at all. And naturally, on tape, a car went off the road behind him as he was speaking.
That's kind of like using boxes of sensitive information that have been lying around to demonstrate how vulnerable our sensitive information is to theft...
The Budget Battles
The legislative Democrats are signaling an increasing willingness to go it alone on TABOR. Their goal is to take the high-water mark of state spending, as use that as the baseline for future spending caps. The Republicans are, I fear, on the verge of making the Bush I mistake - being accused of intransigence while letting the other side roll up the table.
Last year, the Democrats opposed any effort to link Amendment 23 with TABOR, dooming Republican efforts to deal with both in resolving the budget crisis. The Democrats then ran a campaign accusing the Republicans of ignoring the problem.
After winning control of the legislature, the Democrats again vowed to be bipartisan, and again have stiffed any effort to weaken their sop to their parent company. And again, they are arguing that the Republicans simply want to deny them a legislative victory that would help them in 2006. As a result, the Republicans can easily end up looking obstructionist for merely holding the Democrats to their word.
At the same time, Sue Windels is proposing bill after bill that would weaken school accountability, underming charter schools, and eliminate testing as a metric for school performance. The Republicans, as part of their strategy to get Amendment 23 back on the table, need to link these sets of actions - it's a return to entitlement without accountability.
The problem with threatening a separate ballot measure is the Constitution's requirement that any referendum only address a single issue - a requirement that the State Supreme Court has rigorously enforced when it comes to conservative propositions. Thus, if the Democrats only want to deal with TABOR in their way, they can pass that through the legislature on a majority vote and send it to the voters this fall. Any Republican attempt to link the two would need to be on separate ballot measures, both needing signatures to get to a vote.
January 25, 2005
Party of Reason - I
Concerning the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment:
While Colorado's new progressive majority seeks to avoid contentious social wedge issues, in the interest of getting important bipartisan fiscal work done, the national Congress freely indulges.
And just like that, the RMPN shows it understands neither the meaning of "majority," nor the word "avoid," nor the stakes in the War on Islamic Radicalism, nor the definition of "default." (It would trivialize the argument to point out the lack of parallel construction in the last paragraph.)
A referendum banning gay marriage placed on the ballot here would pass handily, as it did in 11 other states last fall. So far Sue Windel has proposed dismantling school accountability and cutting back charter schools, while Rep. Boyd wants to require all hospitals to endorse abortion for rape victims. The Taliban didn't ban gay marriage - they simply banned gays. To the best of my knowledge, no dates at Mile High or Coors Field have been reserved for the executions. And a government, like a company, may continue to have debt forever without defaulting on any of it.
At the risk of being a little too apt, I'd suggest that Messrs. Gordon and Romanoff, and Mesdames Fitz-Gerald and Madden be very careful whom they climb into bed with.
January 24, 2005
Keeping the Troops in Line
While it appears that Tsar Romanoff has been able to strike a deal over TABOR that formally puts Amendment 23 on the ballot, the Senate has been a tougher nut to crack. Some of us think that this may be a matter of a more pragmatic majority leader Ken Gordon trying to keep Senate Duchess Joan FitzGerald in line, which may be a problem for the Dems throughout the next two years.
On this one issue, taxes, Gordon and FitzGerald have similar Colorado Union of Taxpayers ratings, but Gordon's go much further back. From '93, when he was in the House, he had been very low, but consistently in the double-digits. Both he at FitzGerald entered the Senate with the Democratic takeover there in the 2000 elections.
Gordon's ratings dropped to 0 and 5 for the next two years, somewhat reflective of the overall shift to the left, and dealing a not-so-subtle rebuke to the idea that power and responsibility go together. These were FitzGerald's first years in the legislature, and she voted with 7% and 9% ratings.
After 2002 when the Republicans retook the Senate, their ratings jumped up to the mid-to-high 20s, and yes, there were plenty of Senators who had lower ratings than that. Gordon appears to have learned his lesson, which is that extremism in the cause of taxation is no virtue, while FitzGerald seems to see her President status as a chance to ram through her vision.
Gordon was the one, you'll remember, who floated the idea of offering Republicans a symbolic olive-branch of committee vice-chairmanships. FitzGerald's rhetoric has been more strident since before the election, and as Senate President, it's hard to imagine that she hasn't been involved at some level in coming up with the majority position over there.
January 23, 2005
Teachers and Their Discontents
January 21, 2005
See? This is What the Problem Was
So K-Lo couldn't recognize Salazar. I think he'll probably find that a lot people make that mistake. Lose the hat, Ken. Nobody will mistake you for Tom Daschle if you do.
That said, he really does come across as a nice guy. Much easier to run against the actual Daschle, than to try to create one where none exists.
Holtzman and the Big Tent
"You serve your party best by serving your country first." - Marc Holtzman quoting Jack Kemp
Clay has a good summary of Marc Holtzman's appearance before yesterday's House Republican Caucus meeting.
For a speech two years out from the election, he hit all the right notes, and demonstrated a good grasp of the issues facing the state and the party. I was particularly pleased to see him quote Jack Kemp's line. It keeps the focus on being a governing party, not merely an election-winning one. At the same time, as Clay points out, Holtzman addressed in some detail specific structural and operational problems the party needs to address.
He also tried to present an appropriate line for the party on social issues - fight the battle where the battlefield is, not where you might want it to be. The Republican party in Colorado is pro-life. But the argument now is about partial-birth abortion and parental notification. Democratic rabble-rousers may cry that the right to teenage infanticide protects a woman's right to choose, but that's a losing argument.
We'll see where his education and health care proposals come out, but at least he's consulting with the right people. And when one member suggested he had forgotten about transportation and water, Holtzman tried to roll them into an overarching environment and resource plan.
Finally, and not to be hyper-critical, but his speaking style emphasized his smallish physical size. It may have been the informal venue, but Holtzman had a habit of bending at the waist for emphasis, as though the force of his ideas weren't enough. Perhaps in a larger venue he's better.
Republicans Stiffen Their Spines
To the extent that ideas, rather than money, helped the Democrats win the legislative elections last fall, it was on the mantra of being able to get things done. So while they may think Republican obstructionism might help them in '06, they still have to deal with a Republican governor right now. Owens won't sign a bill that most of his caucus opposes. They need a bipartisan deal.
The missing piece so far has been Amendment 23. While a lot of us had resigned ourselves to waiting for next year, when then Republicans' hand would be weaker, the House Republicans, led by Mr. Stengel, have put that on the table this year.
This week, both sides agree, negotiators added something else: a plan to ask voters in 2006 to tweak Amendment 23, which mandates state spending hikes on education regardless of the economic situation. Discussions centered on delaying some of that mandated spending in times of recession.
Groff's got a good reputation, and one certainly understands what he means by this. But the Republicans have been linking these two issues for well over a year.
There's a complicated political calculus here. The TABOR changes would get voted on this year, while Amendment 23 would wait until the '06 vote. Do the Democrats back the changes, or just the referendum, and then count on the teachers' unions to paint the Republicans as anti-reading?
Democrats could send a TABOR change on to the voters without the Governor's signature. He's talking about a competing ballot initiative, but Owens doesn't have a great record when it comes to referendum votes. Still, the Democrats are obviously eager to avoid looking like they're railroading things through. Stengel has made it harder for them to do that.
Also, the Democratic House leadership is younger and less-experienced than in the Senate. But the margin in the Senate is only one vote. The Dems there have a trickier balancing act, and Stengel may be playing off their situation against the eagerness of House Democrats to reach a deal.
So right now, both sides have great incentives to reach a deal, while also saving enough ammunition to paint the other side as instransigent if things fall apart.
January 20, 2005
The Governor, the Tsar, and the King
And then there were three. In addition to the Governor's plan and Speaker Romanoff's plan, Republican representative King has entered a plan into the TABOR Sweepstakes.
Jim Tankersley, as usual, has a good summary of the three plans.
Both the Governor and Speaker Romanoff would lower the tax rate to 4.5%, but they would calculate spending limits differently. The Governor would ask for a one-time bump in the TABOR baseline, effectively to allow the state to meet its current obligation. Romanoff would tie spending to the government's 2000 share of the state's economy.
Of these two, Romanoff's plan is the more generous to the state, and so the more dangerous. Romanoff makes room for more permanent programs and long-term obligations, while ignoring the other two parts of the vise - Amendment 23 and Gallagher. Owens's plan doesn't address these immediately, either, but by using current programs as the baseline, he makes it more likely that the legislature will have to deal with Amendment 23 next year.
The King-Teck proposal is a little different. It lowers taxes to 4.45%, and cuts the maximum state growth rate to 5% for three years, while also giving a one-year bump to the baseline. King-Teck also basically keeps a tight lid on discretionary spending, which would mean dealing with Amendment 23 sooner rather than never.
Naturally, the Tsar is displeased:
Romanoff said he welcomed the plan but questioned parts of it.
Or, we have to go to the people and actually ask them for their money for these things. Or, we have to decide that we're not going to build automatic raises into one part of the budget. Meaning we'll have to make choices. Gee, what a novel idea.
Naturally, business leaders (who always follow the majority) and Democrats, think it's a PR problem:
The business leaders chatting with Democrats Tuesday saw some lessons there. They strongly supported a long-term budget fix that includes increased state spending, and several said to pass it in November, proponents need to control the campaign war of words.
Steve, politics is largely marketing. And anyone who's going to tell people that letting them keep more of their own money is "throwing it away" must not like being in the majority that much, after all.
January 14, 2005
You Go to Budget Negotiations With the Elected Officials You Have
There's good and bad here, and then there's setup for next year and the election cycle.
The securitization makes sense from a fiscal point of view. You can't try to outsmart the market, which means that the greater the uncertainty, the higher the interest rate that third-party will use to discount the revenue stream. Since the risk-dependent rate gets added onto the risk-free rate, and the risk-free rate is at historic lows, there probably won't be a better time to strike that deal than now.
While Owens talked about putting very severe limitations on when the rainy-day funds could be used, legislatures do have a tendency to start spending that money on predictions of cold fronts moving through Utah. While ultimately, the fate of that money rests with the citizens, it's better to start off with all the restrictions we can come up with.
As for the TABOR changes, at first blush the base may think that we had to destroy it in order to save it. But it's not destroying it. Owens correctly points out that this is with the consent of the public, and has always been a built-in contingency. If the main goal is to keep the state out of receivership without giving the Democrats too much leeway to take on new long-term obligations, then all we're arguing about is the points.
On a side note. If higher education is going to complain about being squeezed, it's only fair that it be subjected to accounting supervision at least as rigorous Sarbanes-Oxley imposes on private concerns. That this bill is bipartisan gives me hope.
Ben is all over the Senate Dems who want to spend even more money they've made sure we don't have. We don't have it, in large part, because of Amendment 23. (Kestrel's right about the moral hazarf of getting everything you want, anyway.) If the governor is going to make essentially revenue-side concession this year, he's going to have to make the case repeatedly that these choices are because of Amendment 23. Over and over. So that whoever the nominee is doesn't have to start from scratch. So that our chances of getting a modification on the ballot - which would need 2/3 to pass - will be improved. This is the sort of pro-activity that I don't think we saw enough of last year, but can still come in time to save the game for next year.
Most of what the majority is proposing to do is statutory, and the referenda involved need only a majority to pass, and can make it onto this year's ballot. Most of what we'd really like to do requires Constitutional change, would need to pass more restrictive timelines, and wouldn't make it until next year.
The title of the posting isn't intended to dis the Governor, but to show that when you don't have a majority, especially in Colorado's budget process, your options are limited.
The Post Buries the Lead
While the guys at the RMPN claim to be wondering what state the governor was describing, I'm wonder what speech the Denver Post reporter was at. The story (Owens vows to wield the veto; Governor defiant in State of State), spends half of the article describing the governor as unyielding, threatening, and intransigent.
In fact, the discussion of non-negotiables lasted less than 1/10th of the speech, and was brought in at the end to set up some red lines in an otherwise conciliatory address. The fact is, many, many of the legislators whom Governor Owens thanked for sponsoring or carrying legislation were Democrats. For instance, when Owens talked about making the accounting records of public-university foundations a matter of public record, he thanked Senator Ron Tupa (D-Boulder) for carrying that bill.
One of the keys to retaining the governor's mansion is going to be solving problems while not appearing either weak or obstructionist. The governor's speech was an excellent start. The Post's deciding it likes a good fight better than the facts doesn't make his job any easier.
Governor Owens's Budget Solution
During the meeting with the Governor yesterday, the first, biggest, baddest issue of all came up quickly, and didn't go away for quite a while: the budget. I came in very skeptical of a plan that looked a lot like surrender, especially from a governor whom I've criticized for not providing much executive leadership on the issue last year. I came out at least willing to consider the idea, and certainly with a better understanding of it.
Essentially, there are two parts to the budget problem - 1) this year and 2) every year after that. Part 2) may be solved by a one-time increase of the TABOR base, approved by the voters in November. Up until now, TABOR's only impact has been to prevent the legislature from walking away with more of the state's money without having to ask for it. (Why is it that the Left values every individual right except property rights?) The governor's proposal, borrowing heavily from something the Tsar has proposed, would reduce the state income tax to 4.5%, while raising the baseline limits on TABOR spending.
TABOR uses a formula that says that state spending can only increase, year-over-year, by inflation plus population growth. This year, that's 0% + 1.5%. The governor want to up that to 3.5% or 4% this once, but it also increases the baseline for the out years. And further tinkering, or even going back on the tax cut, would also require voter approval.
Since this won't show up on the ballot until November, we also need to to something about this year's budget. The large
Of course, this would yield much, much more money than even a Democrat-controlled legislature could spend in one year. So after we patch up this year's mess, we would take the rest and put it into a rainy-day fund.
That's the plan, as I understand it. Analysis to follow.
January 13, 2005
Photoblogging the State of the State
A few photos from the Visitors' Gallery seats that the Governor's Office was generous enough to procure for us.
But first, one small note about the speech. Governor Owens recognized a set of school administrators in his speech as being particularly effective and praiseworthy. They were sitting two rows in front of us, and one of the honorees was so moved, I could see the tears streaming down her face. If you're human, you don't photograph something like that, but it sure was touching.
Now, on to the photos...
Here's the governor getting ready to speak. The painting behind him is called Long's Peak, and it's really a terrific piece of art. Long's Peak is the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park, and is something of a symbol for the state.
Now, if you had served in opposition for most of your political career, and suddenly got a chance to head up the state Senate, you'd probably pay attention to what the speech had to say. Or at least, realizing you'd be sitting directly behind the governor, you'd pretend to care. But then, you're not State Sen. Joan FitzGerald (D-Golden):
At first, looking through the 30 or so pictures I took (isn't digital grand?), I thought I might have just caught her blinking, or perhaps deep in prayer. Here's one of the two or three other shots that capture the same sentiment:
The governor finishes the speech, and the Senate President and Speaker of the House stand there with him. Now Romanoff has to be "The Tsar." Has to be. Shanahan is "The Mastermind," Romanoff was, quite literally, born to be "The Tsar." But how do you solve a problem like FitzGerald?
Well, the name FitzGerald comes from the illegitimate children of some English kings. (Spare me the emails; I'm not casting aspersions on Joan's parentage or that of her husband. "Sharf" comes from "sharp," but who ever heard of a pointy-headed conservative?) Frequently, these folks would end up as Dukes or Duchesses, since the king was pretty much the only guy around for whom extra kids weren't an embarrassment. So, "the Duchess" it is.
Here they are, together for the very first time, The Duchess, The Governor, and the Tsar.
Tomorrow, some real commentary. I promise. Mostly about the budget, and a few drips and drabs about water.
State of the State
More on this later, but I did want to let everyone know that we actually made it to the capitol, that Sean and Michele took very good care of us, and that I'm sure we'll all have something up soon on the speech and the post-game interview.
The speech itself came across as confident, and the governor seemed almost more comfortable in the role of having to work cross-party. He's got experience at it from the other side, of course. I did notice a fair amount of navel-gazing and watch-checking from the Democratic side when Owens rattled off a list of compromisese he wouldn't make.
I can't speak for everyone else, but I found him to be gracious, sharp, and on top of things. I came in very skeptical of the TABOR plan being proposed, and walked out willing to think it over. At the same time, I think he knew he was speaking to his base, and wanted to make sure we understood why and how the dynamics at the Capitol had changed this year.
The only drawback was that the editor-in-chief of 5280 was there, tape recorder running, and I'm sure that put a bit of a damper on some of the give-and-take. But the answers we got were, I think, fair and honest, and on polilcy (as opposed to politics), I don't think he or we pulled any punches.
January 12, 2005
The Budget Positioning Starts
The calendar says 2005, but for those of us old with memories, it feels a little like 1995. The opposition party has taken over the legislature, and the governor now has to deal with leadership from the other party in both houses, for the first time in 40 years. And one of the lingering questions is whether or not this party, out of power for so long, can resist its more partisan and polarizing instincts. Then, as now, the budget moves to the center of this question.
In 1995, it was the Republicans led by Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole. Today, it's Ken Gordon and Tsar Andrew Romanoff. Initial signs are mixed.
Romanoff is floating a proposal to use the high-water mark of 2000, rather than the ratcheted-down level of 2002 or so, as the baseline for permissible TABOR expenditures. It completely ignores that third-rail of state-level politics: education spending, in this case, as mandated by Amendment 23.
The Democrats ran as compromisers, understanding all three elements of the problem, but are now apparently proposing to "fix" only one side of the triangle, as a sop to their primary constituency.
The AARP can run all the bogus polls it wants. If they, and the League of Women Voters, and Bell, and Bighorn thing that Coloradoans are going to vote to raise their taxes without controlling spending, they're going to get a big surprise in November. A strong response by the minority, led by a strong response by a still-popular governor with nothing to lose, is exactly the formula that led Clinton back from the abyss in 1995-96. The same instincts that led Coloradoans to kill Amendment A can work in our favor this time.
January 11, 2005
State of the State Address
The Rocky Mountain Alliance, in the persons of Clay, Jim, and I, will be blogging Governor Owens's State of the State Address from the capitol on Thursday. Afterwards, the governor has been kind enough to give us about 15 minutes of his time for question. Michele Austin and Sean Duffy, who arranged the whole thing, has informed us that the governor is expecting us to ask some serious, tough questions about the speech and this year's agenda. It's a testament to the growing influence of the blogosphere.
Since blogs serve best as both an information source and a feedback channel, I'd like to open up the floor. What do you want to ask the governor? I'll pick a question, ask it, and make sure that the governor knows it came from you. You can use the comment section here, but your odds are probably better if you email me.
January 10, 2005
Tracking Them Down in Their Lair
Thanks to the good offices of Michele Austin and Joe Stengel, Clay and I were able to be Flies on Da Vall of the Republican legislative retreat. It was a real pleasure getting to meet the members, and there seemed to be real interest in both blogging, and how we bloggers could be of use to the party.
We missed the morning session, and discretion obviously mandates that most of what was said remain private.
The estimable Dick Wadhams, fresh from South Dakota and the Toppling of the Daschle, gave his take. Blogs played a large role in that campaign, and one of the questioners specifically asked about them, and mentioned one blog booster in particular.
After lunch, Rep. Bob Beauprez spoke, and I get the feeling that if the party is smart enough to follow his advice, things may turn out all right in '06, after all. He mentioned a couple of topics where the party probably has an advantage over the Democrats, and as they come up during the legislative session, we'll be sharing some of his choicer quotes.
All in all, I don't think the party has any illusions about the task in front of it. Soon we'll find out if it's up to the task.
January 06, 2005
New Colorado Political Blog
He lists himself as three very early Colorado governors, referring, perhaps, to this rather bizarre incident just under 100 years ago:
In 1904, [McDonald] was nominated as Lieutenant Governor and was elected to that position by a decisive majority. Alva Adams won as governor and took office in January, 1905.
And on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog wearing pajamas.
Right now, he's handicapping the governor's race.
I do have a couple of bones to pick, though. I think he's overestimating Hickenlooper, and underestimating Coffman. The last two governors have both been treasurer first. And while the Mayor of Denver vitually controls the budget process beginning to end, the governor has to work more through persuasion and public opinion. For instance, while the legislature pretty much owns the budget process, the City Council has to take nine separate votes to change a line item in the mayor's budget.
December 17, 2004
Turns out that CU's athletic department has been taking advantage of some scholarship funds for what would most generously be described as "recruiting." While the prior scandals and non-scandals happened before Gary Barnett showed up, this stuff is on his watch. He might want to put that Big 12 Coach of the Year Trophy in a safe deposit box before the writers have second thoughts.
But Mike Littwin has his eyes on a bigger problem - the fact that Colorado, despite a high personal income and good jobs, can't seem to fund top-tier public universities. Mike and I both went to U.Va., and so both benefitted from the Commonwealth's strong public university system. He also went out to California, so saw another strong system up close. The TABOR-Amendment 23 box is squeezing out discretionary spending like that for public colleges.
The universities really only have themselves to blame for this.
Why? Why isn't this blaming the victim? One reason. Arrogance. Arrogance that says they don't have to account to us. And arrogance that says we ought to be happy about it.
I wrote Littwin to ask about his column. He replied with a complaint about high tuitions. Those high tuitions are a result of the same problem, the question Littwin fails to ask in his column: what are these universities doing with our money, and what do we get out of it? We want college for ourselves and for our kids, so we're willing to take out second mortgages to pay for it. But we rarely ask if those psychology majors really do us any good. Or if the research the professors produce does our psyche any good.
Universities believe that their value is self-evident. So they don't discuss how they spend their money, they don't look for efficiencies, and they dismiss questions about the value of "feminist economics" as coming from those under-educated rural white guys who elected Bush again.
But by doing so, they reduce the justification for massive public spending to its practical effects, almost all of which relate to science, technology, or business. And these are precisely the areas where multi-culturalism is irrelevant, or less relevant. (After all, any society where one plus one doesn't equal two is a society unlikely to have put a man on the moon.) Which is why operations like the University of Phoenix have gained a foothold.
Every other business in the country has to, at some point, examine its operations and ask about its mission. Universities have both suffered mission creep - in terms of research and facilities - and have lost sight of their core competency - education for citizenship and life. They've been insulated from the realities of economics by a public willing to pump money into what's become seen as a necessity for middle-class life.
That may be coming to an end.
December 16, 2004
Academia Taps Business to Help Government
A few weeks ago, outgoing DU Chancellor Daniel Ritchie announced a panel to examine Colorado's budget crunch:
University of Denver Chancellor Daniel Ritchie on Tuesday announced a panel of 16 civic and business leaders who he said will take a fresh, nonpartisan look at how to unsnarl the state's fiscal problems.
No kidding. The governor has to say that, Bell has a freer hand, but has every reason to be optimistic that the panel will try to make long-term changes to TABOR. While Ritchie himself is a pretty staunch Republican, his committee members seem to lean the other way.
Of the 13 committee members who have given to political campaigns, 5 have given primarily to Republicans, while 8 have favored Democrats. Of these, 2 of the Republicans (Tointon and Robinson) have given substantial amounts, while three have given small donations over time.
However, one of the Democrats is a former officeholder, Richard Celeste, former governor of Ohio, and responsible for inviting Hanan Ashrawi to come speak at Colorado College on September 11, 2002. Kim Patmore has spread money all over the Democratic map, including contributions to Maxine Waters and to Ernest Hollings in 2002. Salazar has given money to both John and Ken (I've been unable to determine so far if they're related, but Marguerite is also from the San Luis Valley.) She also signed a press release that suggests fairly strong political leanings.
Academic committees, like academia itself, clothes itself in an air of intellectual purity that doesn't apply, and doesn't obtain. Their findings are reported with an air of reverence and respect all out of proportion to what they deserve. Businessmen, like academic and intellectuals, bring certain biases and attitudes to their work. Effectiveness in the committees isn't measured merely by numbers, but also by the strength of conviction, and the willingness to defend an ideology. The balance of power here clearly favors the left.
One of the most widely-held misconceptions about business is that businessmen by definition favor Republicans. Business favors business. Small business tends to favor Republicans, but big business is decidedly bi-partisan. This is partly out of misguided attempts to cover their bets, but also partly out of a desire to raise barriers to competition. If new regulations don't apply to small business, they do kick in at some number of employees - frequently 50 - making the transition from small annoyance to serious conpetitor that much harder.
All that adds up to a committee that, in the popular mind, would be expected to defend TABOR. When it doesn't, that will be cited as evidence of TABOR's failings, rather than the committee's.
December 13, 2004
Isn't this exactly the sort of thing the Democrats complained about before they won the election?
A Democratic leader in the Colorado House wants to change the way the new college voucher plan is classified under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights to help solve the state's budget deficit.
Note that this doesn't actually save the government any money, and it may actually increase the tax burden on families receiving the cash.
2008? How About 2006?
The Rocky has a rundown of their leading candidates for the 2006 Colorado governor's race. While they acknowledge that this early in the game, their crystal ball is going to be a little cloudy, a couple of points worth questioning.
First, they quote one analyst claiming that a US House candidate or officeholder would have an advantage. I beg to differ. As we've seen, legislative skills don't necessarily transfer to the executive. Both current two-term governor Bill Owens, and his three-term predecessor, Roy Romer were both state Treasurers before becoming governor. And in 1998, in a competitive race, Owens beat then-Lt. Gov. Gail Schoettler by a few thousand votes.
The Rocky may be right when they list Bob Beauprez as an early Republican front-runner. Beauprez used to run a bank, a business, and a farm, so he's got credibility on fiscal issues. Of course, so does current Treasurer Mike Coffman, and Coffman has also been out in front on state fiscal issues like the tobacco settlement and the budget.
Now, this is a whisper piece. If somebody wanted his name in the bowl at this point, it would be there. So two omisssions are notable. First, Lt. Gov. Jane Norton doesn't come up. Could she be considering a Senate run in 2008 when Sen. Wayne Allard's term is up?
Secondly, the "Four Millionaires" candidate is Rutt Bridges, who backed out of the Senate race when Salazar declared. But keep your eye on Jared Polis. Polis is ambitious, also has business experience, and has gotten himself elected to the state school board. This could be some early misdirection by that Democratic faction.
December 08, 2004
A Cogent Explanation
Stealing a headline from many blogs, outgoing State Senate President John Andrews tries to explain "What Went Wrong."
Andrews boils it down to three things: money, message, and motivation. The three are all intertwined, but tellingly, money is largely a function of message and motivation. The party, having failed to settle on a message, couldn't persuade people that it was governing effectively, and couldn't even motivate its own troops. No wonder it couldn't raise money.
He also touches on the internal party factions which are now threatening its long-term health. The fact is, activists will tend to look at tactical issues such as money, before they look at message. Right now, the party activists and insiders need to do the spadework, to be sure.
But the party leadership, starting with the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Treasurer, will set the tone.
December 04, 2004
Where Was the Cavalry?
This time, it looks like it was on the other side. In a small item, the Rocky reports that over $550,000 of the $2.1 million that the "Four Millionaires" spent to buy back the Colorado legislature for the Democrats came in during the final weeks. One of the costs of focusing on the national races at the expense of the state races.
They also report that Salazar outspent Coors in the Senate race.
The final campaign numbers show that Salazar spent $8.5 million to $7.3 million for Coors. And that includes the $1.3 million Coors loaned himself, with $500,000 of that coming in the final week.
One of the key factors in the primary was the belief that Coors would be able to compete more effectively on money than Schaffer would have. This report shows that Coors did have trouble raising money, possibly because of his wealth.
A friend of mine, who strongly supported Schaffer during the primary, is still convinced that Schaffer could have been effective raising money, but these numbers indicate otherwise. After all, if Salazar outraised Coors almost 3-2 ($8.9M to $6.2M), it's unlikely that Schaffer could have done much better. And this was with the state party leadership focusing on the race. And in any case, I saw plenty of Coors ads down the stretch. It isn't as though he wasn't getting his message out.
Still, while money is necessary, it isn't sufficient. Tom Tancredo barely outspent his opponent, but cruised in for re-election.
November 12, 2004
What Went Wrong? - Part I
On November 2, Coloradoans voted to turn the state legislature, both houses, over to Democratic majorities. Aside from promoting Andrew Romanoff from House Minority Tsar to, well, Colorado House Tsar, this places the Governor squarely on the defensive with respect to some of the most important state-level issues, including TABOR and taxes.
The good news is, when they get away from state politics, they're complete raving lunatics.
The election was stolen, Michael Moore is still a hero. They compare the US forces heroically fighting in Fallujah to Syrian thugs. Homegrown thugs, of course, are getting their marching orders from Karl Rove. And, of course, these opponents of theocracy are big fans of a Boulder high-school group calling themselves the Taliband.
The RMPN is the website for the Four Millionaires who bankrolled the big Democrat gains this past year.
It's really hard to take these guys seriously.
And yet, for the next two years, anyway, we have to.