Our View: Big job for Legislature

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— With a Colorado state budget shortfall estimated by the legislative staff at $604 million, there is a clear challenge for the incoming state Legislature leadership: Deal with the economy. And deal with it within the confines of constitutional spending mandates.

Incoming House Speaker Terrance Carroll told the Coloradoan editorial board that his goal is to make sure all legislative decisions are thoughtful and prudent. And he noted that partisan wrangling will not lead this state to effective legislation.

He is correct. While the Democratic Party will control the state House and state Senate, as well as the governor's office, solutions to issues such as transportation funding (which is barely represented in the governor's proposed budget), higher education funding and access to health care will have to come from a bipartisan approach.

This Legislature will be asked to invest in the future in the form of job training, higher education, transportation and the new energy economy at the same time it will struggle with rising unemployment figures, lack of a skilled work force and declining revenues. In the meantime, Colorado received a black eye in recording the largest increase in the nation (73 percent) in the number of children living in poverty from 2000 to 2006.

In addition to thoughtful and prudent, the incoming Legislature may want to add the word "balance." Past legislatures have approached difficult budget situations by refusing to consider proposed legislation that included spending packages. That's shortsighted.

Rather, the key will be to research, reassess and redefine priorities. Yesterday's priorities may not be applicable in 2009.

Investment in the future cannot be taken off the table, but such investments must indeed by thoughtful and prudent.

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