Senator Al White continues to wrestle with budget woes

Northwestern Colorado Sen. Al White offers a vivid description of life as the lone Senate Republican on a Joint Budget Committee that must defend the JBC's effort to balance the state's budget in the wake of plummeting revenue.

White, R-Hayden, frequently is opposed by the other 13 Senate Republicans in the debate about where to cut programs or services; whether or not to increase fees; or raiding a plush workmen's compensation fund to prevent decimating state support to higher education.

"I tell people it's like living in the basement of a 13-hole outhouse," White said as the Senate prepared to open debate on the JBC's proposed $17.9 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The Senate debated the so-called "long bill" for several hours Thursday and was scheduled to take a final vote Monday after taking today off in observance of Good Friday and Passover.

The budget bill (SB 259) is accompanied by several other JBC measures that require specific changes in the law before money can become available for general fund spending.

One of the most controversial is Senate Bill 273, which has White as the primary sponsor. It would require the board of Pinnacol Assurance, by far the largest workman's compensation insurer in the state, to transfer $500 million of its reserve into the state treasury so the budget can get balanced.

Proponents argue the Pinnacol money is the only way to avoid cutting another $300 million from state support to higher education, which some say could lead to closing some community colleges and lead to double-digit increases in tuition.

Opponents, including most Republicans, argue Pinnacol is a private company whose assets can't be raided by the government.

"Now, we have government truly taking money from a private county and taking over a private company to solve our fiscal problems," said Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch during a committee hearing on White's bill. "I'm a 'no' vote of this effort to socialize Colorado."

White refuted claims that the money would come too late to save higher education funding this year because of Pinnacol's threat of a lawsuit if the bill passes.

"They say that, but I think if the statute changes, they've got an obligation to follow the statute," White said. "They have to maintain their licensure in the state of Colorado, and I don't know how they could do that and refuse to follow statute."

White also would like nothing better than to find a way around the Pinnacol fight. One alternative, he said, could be seeking waivers to get more benefit from the federal stimulus package.

"It's ridiculous, we've got several billion dollars worth of federal dollars coming our way in the next couple of years, and we can't fill a $300 million budget hole to balance our budget," White said. "Come on, something not's right there, folks."

Meanwhile, Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, as a member of the House Education Committee, still is waiting get his first look at the School Finance Act that was rammed through the Senate a week ago.

"I haven't even seen it yet," Baumgardner said.

A key House Democrat confirmed the school finance bill is being slowed down in the House.

"We're not going to fast track something that's so important," said Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, the vice-chair of the House Education Committee. "We're going to slow down a bit and have some thoughtful conversation about it."

Senate Bill 256, touted by its sponsors as ground-breaking reform with emphasis on at-risk children, was introduced March 30, approved by two committees during the week and passed second and third readings in the full Senate by the following Friday.

Sen. Roy Romer, D-Denver, argued passage of the bill as he introduced it would put Colorado in the front-runner's position to receive federal funds under President Barack Obama's school incentive program called "A Race to the Top."

However, Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien also announced this week that she is assembling a team to position Colorado in the "Race to the Top," which could bring as much as $500 million in education grant funds to the winning states.

Solano said the complicated formula for funding children in the at-risk category will get a hard look in the committee, which has yet to schedule a hearing on the measure.

"It sort of takes away from our focus on early childhood education and changes the way we previously funded at-risk kids to focus on those high poverty schools in certain pockets of the state," said Solano, a retired school teacher.

"I think this at-risk money is too important statewide to have it concentrated in just the Denver area," she said.

As it currently stands, the school finance bill pumps almost $5.7 billion into public education for the 2009-10 fiscal year - a 6.39 percent increase - with almost $3.7 billion of the total coming from state funds. The rest is raised through local property taxes.

Baumgardner said there isn't much he can do to guide debate about the budget or school finance being a first-term lawmaker and one of only 27 Republicans in the House to the Democrats' 38.

"It's frustrating to say the least," he said. "There's no money and being in the minority party, what are you going to do? We can contest whatever we want to, but that's about it."

Comments

taxslave 5 years ago

Government that can take private corporations is FASCISM. When Obama fired the head of GM that was total fascism and now the state believes it can act the same? We're in big trouble people if this isn't stopped immediatly.

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taxslave 5 years ago

Geithner and Paulson named in 200 billion lawsuit filed by the stock holders of AIG. This will be the one to follow.

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=94539

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STANHATHHORN 5 years ago

Senator Al White,

I just read a Craig Daily Press article that stated you are a proponent of confiscating workman compensation premiums paid by Colorado employers to Pinnacol Assurance, a private workman compensation carrier.

I pay about $60,000 annually in premiums to Pinnacol. My belief is that I am protecting my employees should they have an unfortunate on the job accident. That protection is in the form of wage and medical benefits. I do not pay those premiums with the intent of backfilling a shortfall in state funds. Historically, Pinnacol returns part of those premiums to qualified employers when Pinnacol has accumulated sufficient funds to cover their projected obligations.

The CDP article says you intend to blackmail Pinnacol with the threat of making them unable to "maintain their licensure in the state of Colorado". This is beyond belief! Those premiums were paid by private Colorado employers to a private carrier. Any excess premiums belong to Pinnacol and the employers and cannot be stolen by the state.

What's next, confiscation of excess money in our operating checking accounts?

Mr. White, you've certainly lost the respect I held for you. Your proposal is blatant theft!! This legislation would render Pinnacol non-competetive. So when they're gone, who's next? What CRAP!!

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taxslave 5 years ago

Excellent letter. My two cents...if they need to save 500 million let them cut "their" spending. Yes, State employees, starting with him, the governor, the Lt. governor, etc. They don't represent the people so why pay their salaries which are huge, 100 percent health care, retirement package, etc.

With the amount of fed. tax down this past quarter, 38 percent, I'd say the states are going to start hurting a whole lot worse in a month or so when they realize the money isn't coming. And you betcha, local and state governments are too large.

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DONTTREADONME 5 years ago

Mr Hathhorn I do hope you sent that letter to White I also agree this is pure un adulterated Rape on the Colorado Employers.The gov. is getting to big and they need to fall, so we can start over I hope to see on the 15th at the court house Rick Barnes

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lonelyone 5 years ago

I agree with you Stan, the S.O.B. should be booted out of office! I can't believe they can actually take that money and use it for something else? That just is not right and what happens to the people who need those benefits after the State gets their hands on that money???

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taxslave 5 years ago

They need to cut spending, plain and simple. Stop the insanity! Cut unnecessary personnel, like themselves...not steal money and eliminate teachers.

I hope all of you can visit with Bennett on Tuesday.

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taxslave 5 years ago

Go read this mornings SBS Pilot. They are cutting sheriff dept. salaries 10 percent and preparing a layoff list of county employees to be announced.

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Ray Cartwright 5 years ago

I seem to have lost Senator White's email address does anyone out there have it. We all better get on the band wagon and start letting their offices know how the public feels about all of this.

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Ray Cartwright 5 years ago

At the expense of looking like Taxslave "LOL" here is a website that I got through a newsletter from the AFL/CIO. It is a database of CEO salaries of major cooperations. It tells you if the CEO'salaries increased or decreased and by how many %.

http://aflcio.org/corporatewatch/paywatch/ceou/database.cfm

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grannyrett 5 years ago

Isn't Pinnacol a PRIVATE--not government owned--company? Does this mean that if you are in business for yourself, and the government decides you have more money than you need, they can confiscate it? Did they ever hear of free enterprise? There' s going to be a major uprising if this passes!

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lonelyone 5 years ago

I think it'll be a damn shame if this passes. Al White will have lost every chance he might have had of getting re-elected if he doesn't do something to change this. At least that is my opinion. And yes I know he just got elected so we have to put up with his crap for a few years or try to find a way to get him booted out of office.

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taxslave 5 years ago

I'm posting this again. Peter Schiff is giving a wealth of information in this 8 minute video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg3tqYM5vFs

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STANHATHHORN 4 years, 11 months ago

My company recently received a check from Pinnacol for $10,658. This was a return premium for the last fiscal year. As I stated in my post of 4/11/09, when Pinnacol has funds in excess of projected claims it is returned to employers. If Al White had his way my return premium would belong to the state. That would have been a huge theft.

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