View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Owens Doesn't See His Shadow

Or maybe he does see his shadow. I can never remember. But it looks as though we're not in for 2 more years of budget worries. The state government actually seems inclined to reach a deal on the Gordian Knot of a budget we've been left. The Denver Post is reporting that Owens is starting to take a more active role in the negotiations. It seems he's been waiting for the legislative negotiators to define their positions a little more clearly before getting involved. When you control both houses of the legislature, you can do that. But any deal will require amending the state constitution, which needs 2/3 of each house before heading to the people for approval. The Republicans will need help in both houses, even if they maintain discipline, to push this through.

Owens is willing to deal on Amendment 23 and TABOR, trading off the ratcheting effect for the extra 1% yearly education increase. The Democrats want to "suspend" the 1% increase during bad times. I think getting rid of it altogether is the safer road. The legislature can make these year-to-year decisions about specific budget items as it is. There's always the danger that the bar is set too high, and the 1% never actually gets suspended. There's also the issue of the Gallagher Amendment. While voters rejected a change to it last fall, that was a standalone deal. They may be more amenable to changing it as part of a package. State Treasurer Mike Coffman, who would dearly like to run for Governor on having solved this problem, is proposing a three-way deal.

I've been very critical of Owens for not being out-front on this problem. It's good to see him showing up now, and hopefully he can get a deal out of it.

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