Secretary won’t return $4 million surplus to state
DENVER — Former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher ran his office more efficiently than his successor, Scott Gessler, if he can’t do without $4 million in surplus funds, Senate Majority Leader John Morse said Friday.
That’s why the Colorado Springs Democrat amended a bill in the Colorado Senate requiring Gessler to turn over that money to the Legislature so it won’t have to cut as deeply into such programs as education as it already had to, he said.
“The new secretary of state, Scott Gessler, can’t figure out how to run his office without the surplus that was left to him, and I’m not surprised,” Morse said. “This is the same guy who wanted to moonlight because he couldn’t figure out how to live on the $68,500-a-year salary that came with his job.”
Shortly after taking office last month, Gessler, a Republican, said he would not follow through on a Buescher plan to turn the money over because it’s from business filings and should be used to benefit business.
Gessler, who defeated the Grand Junction Democrat in last fall’s elections, said Morse won’t fix what’s wrong with Colorado’s economy with these kinds of moves.
“I have said time and again that the funding for our office comes from fees on businesses, and those fees need to be spent in providing services to the business community,” Gessler said. “Taking these business filing fees to fill other budget gaps simply continues our state’s irresponsible budgeting.”
Morse sharply criticized Gessler for wanting to keep the money while lawmakers are struggling with a $1 billion revenue shortfall. Morse said Gessler is going to have to learn how to run the office as well, if not better, than Buescher did.
“Mr. Gessler is going to have to learn how to run an even tighter ship than his predecessor,” Morse said. “He’s going to have to understand that it’s tough to live within your means.”
Republicans defended Gess-ler’s decision, saying he has his own budget issues to deal with. They said because Gessler just started the job, he should be given time to address those issues.
The measure, SB164, is part of a package to help balance the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. It requires a final vote in the Senate, which could come as early as Monday, but because Republicans control the House, it faces an uncertain future.