Tax hikes not a fix, Dem tells Grand Junction chamber reps

DENVER — The state’s budget is in a fine mess, and neither raising taxes nor cutting programs is enough to fix it, a state lawmaker told a group of Grand Junction business owners Thursday.

Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Louisville and chairman of the Joint Budget Committee, told about two dozen members of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce that raising taxes or cutting programs won’t address the core problem.

“This problem is going to go on unless we cut the budget substantially or raise taxes, and I’m not sure either is possible,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize the economy is not going to come back adequately enough to meet caseload (spending). The problem started in 1999 when the state cut taxes but not spending.”

Pommer said political realities are the reason why neither is achievable.

Lawmakers won’t put a measure on the ballot to raise taxes to the level necessary to cover spending needs, and no one wants to cut whole departments, such as higher education or transportation, which is what it would take, he said.

“It’s going to take somebody else,” he said, hinting that some citizens group is likely going to have to take up the issue. “State government either can try to do everything badly, or focus on what it does well.”

The business owners came to hear state officials on a variety of subjects, including health care, ballot questions, transportation funding and state grants from severance taxes.

Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, a former Grand Junction lawmaker who talked to the group about what his office is doing, said legislators aren’t able to address the most serious issues because politics under the gold dome this session have become too vitriolic.

“I’ve never seen a session like this one before,” he said. “They’re saying outrageous things to each other. It seems to me two-thirds of the Legislature need a time out.”


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