Rocky start for Colorado’s governor

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Posted 2/5/19

It hasn’t been all sweetness and light for Governor Jared Polis in the first 30 days of his reign. So, will the “honeymoon” period be short or did he simply have a semi-rough time out of the …

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Rocky start for Colorado’s governor


It hasn’t been all sweetness and light for Governor Jared Polis in the first 30 days of his reign. So, will the “honeymoon” period be short or did he simply have a semi-rough time out of the starting blocks?

Time will tell, but let’s review what his first month looked like.

Push back on The Guv’s full-day of kindergarten funding

First, starting with his initial State of the State address to legislators, he outlined his high campaign priority of the state: Funding full-day kindergarten on a state-wide basis. The projected annual cost would be $227 million.

While the state enjoys an extra $274 million of unexpected revenue in the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget, some legislators quickly expressed concern over such a hefty recurring annual cost in the General Fund. Even notable Democrats spoke up expressing caution in the state jumping in with both feet from the get-go. Joint Budget Committee Chair Dominick Moreno and Arvada Senator Rachel Zenzinger, a member of the committee, were polite but indicated that the Governor’s plan was “very large.”

How about a phased-in approach?

Perhaps, a less aggressive initial approach would be more fiscally sound and politically palatable. Certainly full-day kindergarten is a very important step for Colorado to implement to support learning at the kindergarten level. I totally support it.

But how about a partial, phased in approach which is more measured financially and could win the hearts and minds of his fellow Democrats in both houses (remember the November election’s result of the “Trifecta” with the Democrats’ Blue Wave sweep in Colorado?).

It doesn’t seem fiscally prudent to utilize $227 million of the $274 million in year one when there is no certainty that the Colorado economy to continue to be so robust for the long run.

Plus, there are other pressing state needs like transportation improvements and health care which need to be funded. I am with you Mr. Governor, but how about slowing down on the gas pedal and start out with a partially funded program to start?

Hello Denver teachers’ union strike!

The second situation to greet the Governor in January was the Denver teachers’ vote to strike. The teachers were set to strike on Monday, Jan. 28 but the Denver School Board requested intervention from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment on Jan. 23.

Teachers cannot legally strike while the Governor is deciding whether state labor officials should try to broker a deal between the teachers and the school district. Under the law, he has 14 days from the time the request was filed to make a decision.

Teachers’ union’s expectations

Remember, candidate Polis enjoyed the support of teachers’ unions across the state in his bid for governor. Politically speaking, there is an expectation that he will support the teachers in their desire for more state funding, support striking teachers as well as on other issues.

The school board’s action puts the newly seated governor in a tough spot as the teachers are eager to strike given the “last and best” offer from the school board was $8.0 million shy. The teachers’ union has stated that they do not want the state to intervene as it would be “futile.” I would hope that the Governor would intervene and reopen negotiations. The impact on affected students would be significant if a strike were to go forward. All alternatives to resolve the issues need to be exhausted.

Hopefully, February will be less bumpy for Governor Polis as he gets into the swing of things.

He wanted credit and he got it

Well, President Trump got credit where credit was due. He stated clearly that he would take ownership in shutting down the federal government over the issue of whether or not to fund a portion of the “Wall.”

He has taken a beating from the American public, including Republicans who had previously supported him. Also, he has lost some support and credibility among Republican members in Congress. He got what he wanted as far as being responsible for the shutdown. Needless to say, it wasn’t a very astute comment to make over and over again. When will his ego step aside?

Legislation to prevent future government shut-downs

Let’s hope and pray that Mr. Trump and the Democrats can resolve the impasse which led to 35 days of the partial federal government shutdown. This was a very low period in American history, using federal employees as pawns in the power game over funding the “Wall.”

I learned last week that U.S. Senator Mark Werner from Virginia (Democrat) is introducing federal legislation to prevent future federal government showdowns when Congress and the President are at an impasse. This legislation is just plain common sense!

Welcome City Councilors Haney and Voelz

Belated congratulations to Michele Haney and Jon Voelz for being appointed by the five members of the Westminster City Council to complete filling the vacancies on the council.

While I do not know Mr. Voelz, I have had the pleasure of working with and knowing Ms. Haney for more years than either of us probably wish to acknowledge. I first met her when she was the number two person at Front Range Community College back in the day before she was selected to be President of Red Rocks Community College.

She is a very capable and knowledgeable person to help lead the City Council forward. She fills Shannon Bird’s remaining term to Nov. 2019 while Mr. Voelz fills Emma Pinter’s remaining term of less than three years.

Now, hopefully, this distraction is out of the way for now and the Council can move on to productive policy directions. However, the whole Emerge Colorado influence and how Council handled the appointments will come up in this year’s City Council election.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.


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