Gary Harmon Column January 22, 2009

Trimming needless regulators good place to start cuts

It would be nice to say the politicos in Denver are taking this whole recession seriously.

But the fact is, the governor and Legislature are playing a waiting game, hoping things will turn around and they won’t have to make any real decisions.

To be sure, Denver Gov. Bill Ritter has clamped down with a hiring freeze and is bragging that he saved about $12 million by leaving 463 positions vacant.

Ritter also sacrificed a couple programs on the altar of frugality, scissoring $35 million in grants for all-day kindergarten. He also stopped about $50 million in construction projects.

That the Capitol dome remains intact after the financial horror visited on it might be what the more skeptical elements of society term “a clue.” It might be that the state doesn’t quite need all the money it’s fed.

Ritter has now asked his agencies to gird up for 10 percent budget cuts across the board.

On one level, that might seem fair enough, the Three Musketeers rule: All for one and one for all.

But how sensible is that, really?

Does the enviro crowd really want gas-field regulators to take the same hit that, say, the Colorado Lottery might have to?

Does the Colorado Education Association really want its teachers, and dues payers, to take a whack in the wallet along with the people at the Department of Motor Vehicles?

Has there really been a careful weighing of state priorities that should take place when the budget starts spurting red ink?

Of course not.

The fact is the governor is taking the easy way out, declining to make difficult choices about what services to keep and which to ditch.

Not that the governor is alone in this. The GOP opposition hasn’t exactly been howling about the cuts it wants to see, either.

So, in the interest of helping out the state, here’s a place to start: The Colorado Department
of Regulatory Agencies.

Along with keeping watchful eyes on bankers, physicians, accountants and the like, the department also licenses, regulates and otherwise keeps track of the likes of athletic agents.

Most Denver Broncos fans probably thought the guy who had Jay Cutler’s back was named Ryan Clady. Little do they know that they’re paying Cutler and Clady when they buy tickets, drink the right beer and buy jerseys marked with the No. 6.

So why pay income taxes to keep track of their agents and Chauncey Billups’ as well? Isn’t that a “service” that taxpayers don’t need to fund?

If that’s not enough, why are taxpayers paying to regulate barbers?

How about hairstylists? Or, as the department has it, estheticians, to say nothing of cosmetologists?

There’s a whole personal-appearance regulatory band that could use the old bikini-wax treatment.

Sure, it hurts when it’s stripped away, but it’s essential to that fit and trim appearance upon which Colorado prides itself.

Landscape architects need regulation? Manicurists and massage therapists? Even animal-massage therapists need licenses in Colorado.

It would be worth knowing what animals complained about their masseurs. Or masseuses.

It’s highly unlikely the regulators in charge of those programs would appreciate getting the old Shanagram from the governor, but the gov’s job isn’t to keep them happy. It’s to keep the money going to the places where it makes the most sense.

The smart money would bet against that happening, though, at least until the gaming regulators hear about it.


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