Gov. Ritter spreads the budget-cut pain

This community has certainly suffered along with the rest of the state as a result of the downturn in the national economy. Coupled with the dropoff in the natural gas industry, and the hundreds of jobs lost in that arena, one could argue the impact of the recession on this part of the Western Slope has been even greater than in much of the state.

Because of that, no one can welcome the fact that 57 more jobs are to be lost at the Grand Junction Regional Center as a result of statewide budget cuts announced by Gov. Bill Ritter Tuesday.

But Colorado, unlike the federal government, has a constitutional requirement that its budget be balanced. And the faltering economy has caused state revenue to drop precipitously. As a result, the state had to cut some $318 million from the current year’s budget — which had already been cut considerably from the previous year’s — to keep the budget out of the red.

Ritter instructed his top administrative aides this summer to look for cuts of 10 percent in each of their departments. Then he and his staff came up with cuts throughout state government. That plan includes $261 million in service and program cuts, the elimination of nearly 270 state jobs and $40 million in cash-funded program reductions, the governor’s office said.

Eliminating one facility at the Regional Center to save an estimated $1.3 million is an unfortunate but necessary part of that statewide plan.

Equally controversial is Ritter’s plan to boost state revenue by raiding the local government share of the state severance tax fund, as well as the state portion of federal money received from leasing the Roan Plateau for oil and gas drilling.

Lawmakers and local government officials are understandably upset about losing money that has been set aside for communities most impacted by oil and gas development. We are, too.

But, in general, Ritter and his staff have done a reasonable job of spreading the pain from a seriously diminished revenue stream.


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