Governor’s defense of budget cuts just talk for upset crowd

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter was the Keynote Speaker at the 20-Club Fall Meeting luncheon at Two River Convention Center

Glenda Bennett was perhaps the only member of the contingent without a sign or a shout.

It fell to her to escort Gov. Bill Ritter through a crowd of upset guardians and relatives of patients at the skilled-nursing unit of the Grand Junction Regional Center, not to mention employees.

That didn’t mean Bennett was cutting Ritter any slack as she walked with the governor into Two Rivers Convention Center for the fall meeting of Club 20.

After escorting him into the building, Bennett exited unhappily.

“He said the wrong thing to me,” Bennett said.

Ritter stressed his record on higher education and cited the construction of new dormitories at Mesa State College.

For Bennett, that was tantamount to “balancing the budget on the backs” of the patients in the skilled-nursing unit, all of them severely developmentally disabled.

Moving the 32 residents of the skilled-nursing facility to nursing homes or other facilities “will dilute the care given to every other developmentally disabled person,” Bennett said.

Ritter spoke to some of the protesters, telling them he had little choice in deciding to close the unit, as well as others in Denver, Pueblo and Fort Morgan.

“I had a $1.8 billion budget hole I had to fill,” he said. “There were a lot of things I would not choose to do or as a Democrat that I wanted to do.”

None of the patients in the skilled-nursing unit will be moved until they have housing and care that is acceptable to their families or guardians, Ritter said.

He stepped inside the building before about a dozen protesters rushed up, shouting, “Hey hey, ho ho, Gov. Ritter’s got to go!”

Members of the Western Slope Conservative Alliance were angry with Ritter’s energy-development policies, the increase in vehicle-registration fees and other issues, Karen Kulp said.

Ritter and the Legislature “have been presented with many reasonable alternatives regarding the economy, but due to partisan politics they seem unwilling to cross party lines and work for a better Colorado,” Kulp said in a statement.


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