McInnis, Penry weigh in on how to govern
Gov. Bill Ritter cut $320 million from the Colorado budget and must cut $280 million more.
Two of the most strident critics of the governor — former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis and Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, both Republicans who want Ritter’s job — were asked what they would do in Ritter’s shoes, i.e., what cuts they would make.
Their answers differed, but on one matter McInnis and Penry agreed, saying they wouldn’t have landed in the same mess as Ritter did.
The answer, McInnis said, isn’t so much in cutting programs as working to increase revenue and in better management of the state’s revenue.
Not so fast, said Penry, who blamed Ritter for ignoring Republican suggestions and embarking on major spending.
Democrats, Penry said, “built government at a record-breaking pace, and now they’re struggling to pay for all the new government they created.”
McInnis, describing himself as sounding like an economic professor delivering a lecture on the workings of state government, said Ritter erred on the revenue side as well as the spending side.
“You must make sure production doesn’t leave the state,” McInnis said of natural-gas development. “You have to go to industry” to find out what it will take to keep companies here.
Colorado also could encourage immediate revenue by treating the military better, McInnis said, referring to the long-running battle in southeastern Colorado over the Army’s expansion plans in Pinon Canyon.
“We have a lot of wounds to repair and some apologies to make” to encourage military investment in the state, he said.
Attracting military investment could “bring a revenue enhancement pretty quick,” McInnis said.
Trimming the executive branch of the government is something Penry would do, he said.
“Rather than releasing bad guys from prison, raiding DUI funds, or displacing those with extreme disabilities, this growth in Bill Ritter’s patronage empire would be a great place to reduce spending,” Penry said.
McInnis said he would turn to familiar faces, such as Brian Macke, formerly of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, to balance environmental interests and reinvigorate state revenue.
People who have been working in the state’s departments also know where efficiencies can be found, he said.
“This is a workout plan” that will depend on finding economies large and small, he said.
He would borrow an idea from Arapahoe County, where officials cut costs with a call center to remind defendants of their court appointments.
Similar savings could be make to reduce health-care costs borne by the state, he said.
Ritter went on a 4,000-employee hiring binge and failed to build the state’s reserves, Penry said.