County pols pleased with governor’s spending cuts

Mesa County’s two senior state lawmakers said they are pleased Gov. Bill Ritter has set aside an additional $77 million in the state budget and taken steps to slash state spending in the face of a recession.

The Joint Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, said he is pleased with Ritter’s budget, which includes “the smallest increase in spending since 2002, the year of the financial collapse.”

The governor’s proposed $19.2 billion budget, released over the weekend, includes numerous savings compared to the previous year, including eliminating performance-based raises for state employees. The budget also proposed slashing funding increases for Medicaid programs, mental health services and higher education.

“It’s very, very frugal,” Buescher said. “It’s a tough budget on a couple of levels.”

Buescher said he is especially pleased with the $77 million the governor is setting aside in addition to other statutory reserves.

“This reserve fund is in addition to the $320 million General Fund … reserve,” Ritter wrote in a letter to the Joint Budget Committee. “The $77 million reserve fund will work as a buffer against unforeseen economic shortfalls.”

Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said he was glad to see the governor has taken steps to reduce state spending during an economic downturn.

He said the state also should be prepared to make more cuts in the event that revenue projections continue to fall.

“The key line is that the numbers are very likely going to get worse before they get better,” he said.

First-term Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, said he likes the concept of building a rainy-day fund into the budget, but it is not enough.

“It’s clear that the governor is basing his budget on extremely optimistic numbers, which is concerning,” King said in an e-mail.

King said he also is disappointed that the governor’s budget does not send more money to transportation.

The Joint Budget Committee is scheduled to hold its first hearing on the governor’s proposed budget on Nov. 12.


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