Legislators pick leaders; no West Slopers

Republicans and Democrats in the Colorado House and Senate elected themselves new leaders Thursday, and not one of them represents the largest geographical area of the state, the Western Slope.

For the Republicans, all of their new leaders are either from the Denver metropolitan area or Colorado Springs.

Democrats did virtually the same thing, except one of their leaders is from Pueblo.

The change in leadership, which occurs after every general election, also resulted in the only Western Slope lawmaker on the powerful Joint Budget Committee being replaced with a newly elected senator from Colorado Springs.

That move was particularly upsetting to Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, who is considering not remaining on the JBC as a result.

Ferrandino, a three-year JBC veteran, said he was angry Senate Republicans replaced Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, with Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, primarily because White had the most experience of anyone on the six-member budget panel.

“We’re going from a JBC with 22 years of combined experience last year, and assuming that I’m still on it, it’ll have a total of three years’ experience,” Ferrandino said. “It’s a very novice budget committee.”

White, however, said it would do him no good to get angry over getting booted from the panel, particularly since he knew it was coming. White served on the JBC for four years, the first two when he was in the House.

“The caucus wanted to go a different direction and I respect that,” White said. “I thought it was coming; I could feel the hot breath on the back of my neck. Besides, I’m not dead. I’m just not on the Joint Budget Committee.”

Ferrandino said the changes were motivated by politics rather than budgetary knowledge.

Rep. Frank McNulty, the Highlands Ranch Republican who was selected by GOP legislators to be the new House speaker, is to announce today whom he plans to put on the JBC. White, however, said it’s to be Evergreen Rep. Cheri Gerou and Rep.-elect Jon Becker of Fort Morgan.

Ferrandino said such appointments would make the JBC even less experienced, and still doesn’t provide geographic diversity in the state. Lambert’s appointment is even more upsetting to Ferrandino because he said the conservative legislator often calls for deep cuts in the state budget, but routinely blocks proposed cuts that affect his district.

Lambert served on the JBC during this year’s session when he served in the House.

“The Republican Senate caucus traded experience and the betterment of the state for ideological beliefs,” Ferrandino said. “He protects money for things in his district, and then screams about how government is wasteful. Government is wasteful only when you don’t believe in what it’s spending its money on.”


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