Wednesday Open Thread

"Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate, now what's going to happen to us with both a House and a Senate?"

–Will Rogers

Hick Picks Kathy Green as Communications Director

From the office of the Governor:

Gov. John Hickenlooper today announced that Kathy Green will become communications director and official spokesperson, effective immediately. Green has served as interim communications director since July 2014.

"We were fortunate that Kathy Green joined our team as a interim communications director and during that time we realized we’d be fools to let her go,” said Hickenlooper. “Kathy is a remarkably skilled communicator and meshes seamlessly with our team. She helps bring out the best in all of us.”

Most recently, Green directed marketing and communication efforts for the Colorado Tourism Office and Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT, helping the state integrate media, public relations, and business-to-business marketing programs while supporting consumer-based public relations. Her work earned the agency top recognition from the Business Marketing Association and the global Communicators Awards.

Prior to joining the state, Green worked at the City and County of Denver supporting special media projects under then-Mayor Hickenlooper including the Better Denver Bond program, the 2008 presidential election, the Democratic National Convention and public safety issues. Before joining the public sector, Green owned a consulting firm offering multi-discipline services to clients across industries in both public and private sectors. She holds a journalism degree from Iowa State University.

Maximillian Potter, who took on the dual roles of Communications Director and Senior Media Adviser, will continue on in his Senior Media Adviser role reporting to the governor and will craft overall messaging of the governor’s office. 

This announcement brings some formality to the Communications office, which had been manned (somewhat) by Max Potter following the departure of Eric Brown last summer. Potter is well-liked inside the Capitol and is an excellent speechwriter, but he didn't have the diverse skill set needed to manage overall communications efforts for the Governor.

Sen. Marble delivers falsehood that immigrants bring eradicated “disease”

(Your Senate majority leadership in action - Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Vicki Marble (R).

Sen. Vicki Marble (R).

Warning: KLZ talk-radio host Ken Clark tells me the following blog post is a "hit piece consisting of lies and deceit in order to continue to manipulate the public and your readers at the expense of an elected official who is simply tying to protect her constituents." If only this were true….

The elected official Clark refers to is Republican State Sen. Vicki Marble. At issue is a searing falsehood Marble delivered to Clark on his nooner Freedom 560 show on KLZ 560-AM Nov. 19:

Marble: “Those illegals infiltrate into the system, of the United States, and they bring the disease. They bring whatever from across the border — things we haven’t seen in decades and thought we eradicated. Our whole country is at risk.”

A lengthy search (still in progress) for a factual basis backing up Marble yielded nothing, and I asked Clark why he didn't correct her on air:

Clark: The evidence is overwhelming that we are facing a health risk due to our administrations failure to protect our boarders and as a result are continuing to put our citizens at risk. Senator Marble is 100% correct when she states this fact and by failing to accept the truth and the evidence you are simply attempting to attack a public servant rather than seek the truth. She has been briefed by the Colorado Center for Disease Control as well and is privy to information that is not public, maybe you should try to get some information from them. [BigMedia emphasis]

I asked the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment if there was any evidence that undocumented immigrants are bringing any disease, much less ones that we thought were eradicated, into Colorado.

"CDPHE is not aware of any such evidence," was the simple answer from Mark Salley, CDPHE spokesperson.

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GOP Majority’s Priority One: Killing Colorado Jobs!

Sen.-elect Cory Gardner.

Sen.-elect Cory Gardner.

As the Pueblo Chieftain's Peter Roper reports, a story with great significance to Colorado's economy:

The federal wind power tax credit, which Vestas and other windturbine producers rely on to support sales, is back in the cross hairs of conservative energy groups that want it eliminated…

The wind credit was one of the high-profile issues President Barack Obama campaigned for in 2012, the last time it was set to expire, and bipartisan supporters in windpower states extended the tax credit through 2013 after that election.

That extension allowed Vestas and other windpower companies to enter multiyear production contracts that are still fueling production at their factories, including the Vestas plant south of Pueblo.

The Hill reports that national conservative organizing group Americans for Prosperity, which has a large budget in Colorado, is leading the charge against the renewal of the wind production tax credit:

The conservative Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is publishing advertisements pushing individual Republicans to oppose tax credits for wind energy.

The ads launched Monday in the hometown newspapers of 15 GOP representatives in eight states who have not given clear positions on the wind energy production tax credit since it expired at the end of last year…

“It’s important that these members go on the record to let their constituents know that even during the little-watched lame-duck session of Congress, they’re committed to opposing needless corporate handouts at taxpayer expense,” Brent Gardner, AFP’s top federal lobbyist, said in a statement Monday.

Americans for Prosperity played a significant role in get-out-the-vote operations for Republicans this year, and funded a lavish ad campaign in support for Sen.-elect Cory Gardner. With that said, at least on the issue of renewing the wind production tax credit, Gardner is not quite giving this Koch brothers-funded organization their money's worth:

A spokesman said Gardner noted the congressman backed the 2012 extension and still supports extending it again — but ramped down over time.

At least not yet! This isn't the first time that Gardner has had to thread the needle between supporting Colorado's renewable energy industry, which he is obliged to do as any kind of responsible representative of the state, and conservative dogmatic opposition to any kind of "government subsidy" of this or that particular energy source. Groups like Americans for Prosperity say they're for eliminating all tax credits and so-called subsidies of energy production and "letting the free market decide." It's a convenient position to take as long as actually stripping the traditional energy industry of its many tax credits and subsidies remains politically impossible, which it of course is. In the meantime, AFP can make their hypocritical case against wind power tax credits without appearing so colossally hypocritical.

All of which works fine in states that do not have thousands of jobs tied to the wind power industry. Here in Colorado, these tax credits have a direct, tangible value in high-paying manufacturing jobs–the kinds of jobs that support many more jobs. Jobs we can't afford to lose.

That is why Gardner wants to "ramp down" these tax credits to keep his benefactors happy–just not right now, for the sake of pesky constituents back home who depend on them. That might make mortgages and college educations harder to plan for, but now that he's Colorado's junior U.S. Senator, Gardner can straddle this issue without conseqeunce for at least a few years.

And that appears to be what the voters want, folks.

Colorado’s BEST Political Ads (2014)

Here's our list of Colorado's BEST Political Ads in 2014. Click here to get back to the introduction page.

Colorado's BEST Political Ads (2014):

1. "Joe Neguse for Colorado First Ad," Joe Neguse (D) for Secretary of State [30 Seconds]
If there was a better political ad in Colorado in 2014, we didn't see it. The first campaign spot for Joe Neguse was a simple affair, with the candidate speaking directly to the camera about making his first-ever political advertisement. Rather than asking for your vote in the ad, Neguse talks about his desire to improve the voting process for everyone in Colorado. There isn't much in the way of fancy production value in Neguse's ad — it wouldn't have been necessary, anyway — but this straightforward approach really worked because the script is well-written and Neguse has the natural charisma to grab the viewer's attention. While not "technically" complex, this type of spot is much more difficult than it looks; some candidates either don't speak well in front of a camera or are working off of a script with too many buzzwords and rhetoric to make a connection with the audience. Neguse handled this one perfectly.

 

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Colorado’s Best and Worst Political Ads: 2014

Back in late October, we asked you for suggestions for the Best and Worst political ads in Colorado this cycle. We took your suggestions and combed through YouTube searching for more candidates for Best and Worst political ads of 2014, and we've come up with finalists in both categories. We'll put the finalists to a vote to see which TV ads Colorado Pols readers think stood out the most this year.

Click here for Colorado's BEST Political Ads in 2014.

Click here for Colorado's WORST Political Ads in 2014.

How do we distinguish a "Good" advertisement from a "Bad" ad? There are a lot of different approaches for this kind of thing, but we decided to keep it simple and visceral. Our criteria:

► INSTANT IMPRESSION: A good political ad should stand out immediately in your mind — if you need to watch a particular ad a dozen times to make your decision, then it wasn't that good, and it certainly wasn't memorable.

PRODUCTION VALUE: Does the ad look like a 6th-grader made it with cheap movie-editing software? On the other hand, does the ad look over-produced and too melodramatic?

► MESSAGING: Is the ad clear about the candidate or issue it hopes to influence? Is it easy to understand without trying to cram too many talking points into 30 seconds?

► IMPACT: Rarely is one political ad responsible for determining the outcome in a particular race, and we didn't want to limit the discussion to candidates and campaigns that were victorious on Election Night. The Secretary of State race is a good example here; Democrat Joe Neguse was responsible for our favorite ad of the cycle, while Republican Wayne Williams (the winner in the SOS race) starred in some truly terrible spots. In this category, we also consider any negative effects from the ad in question — did the ad backfire and end up harming the candidate or issue it was designed to promote? Finally, we judge impact based on how we think the ad influenced an average voter; if a voter knew nothing else about the candidate or issue, would this ad be enough to get that voter leaning in the right direction?

► ONCE, TWICE, THRICE: We look at each ad three times, using the time-honored tactic of watching once with the sound off and once without looking at the screen (for an audible-only impression). This can be a critical test for a TV ad, and you can always tell when somebody got sloppy and didn't run through the proper tests before they released the spot to the networks. Going through this process is intended to help catch any potential problems before the ad was finalized. For example, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's infamous 2006 ad, which features the candidate standing next to the rear end of a horse, looks a lot different when you turn off the sound. To anyone watching the Beauprez ad at home without being able to hear the full audio, the visual takeaway is: Bob Beauprez = A Horse's Ass. Certainly not what they intended.

Follow the link below to view our list of the BEST and WORST political ads of the 2014 cycle:

Colorado's BEST Political Ad (2014): Finalists

Colorado's WORST Political Ad (2014): Finalists

Tuesday Open Thread

"An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot."

–Thomas Paine

Colorado’s WORST Political Ads (2014)

Here's our list of Colorado's WORST Political Ads in 2014. Click here to get back to the introduction page.

Colorado's WORST Political Ads (2014):

1. "Neighborhood," Bob Beauprez (R) for Governor [30 Seconds]
We never understood the decision by Bob Beauprez's campaign to start attacking Gov. John Hickenlooper on public safety issues by making the absurd argument that Coloradans are in harm's way because of Hickenlooper. Beauprez's late strategic change reeked of desperation, but this was a bad approach regardless of the timing. The message is ridiculous and over-the-top, earning a rebuke from the Denver Post editorial board ("Beauprez dives into gutter with new ad.") and almost certainly backfiring on Beauprez to some extent. For the cherry on this turd sundae, this ad also failed the "Watch it Three TImes" test; if you weren't looking directly at the television, you would glean nothing from this ad because there is no audible narration.

*Note: The ad below is the original version. This link shows the "corrected" spot following complaints from the Post.

 

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Lamborn’s Bad Idea is Kind of Ironic, Though

Doug Lamborn (R).

Doug Lamborn (R).

We wrote last week about a new piece of legislation to be introduced by Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, which would disallow federal contracts from being awarded to companies who engage in boycotts against any nation with which the United States maintains a free trade agreement. This would have the perhaps-unintended consequence of making it harder for some Americans to protest against bad things that happen in a number of countries around the world, like Middle Eastern monarchies that brutally put down their local Arab Spring revolts, but in his announcement Rep. Lamborn kept the focus squarely on Israel and potential boycotts in support of the Palestinians.

Which leads to, as the Colorado Independent's Susan Greene reported on Friday, an ironic twist:

Lamborn touts Israel as “the only true democracy in the Middle East, a place where all men and women enjoy freedom regardless of their faith or ethnicity. In fact Jewish owned factories and companies in Israel and in Judea and Samaria are among the chief employers of the Palestinian community. Palestinian workers get equal pay and equal treatment and enjoy benefits.”

The question of whether Palestinians are treated equally in Israel is a matter of much debate.

But Lamborn has it right about Israel’s broad and progressive workplace protections. [Pols emphasis] That country’s 1988 equal opportunity law says an employer “shall not discriminate among his employees or among persons seeking employment on account of their sex, sexual tendencies, personal status or because of their age, race, religion, nationality, country of origin, views, party or duration of reserve service.”

Closer to home, Lamborn’s views on workplace protections are vastly less progressive. He has voted against several key worker-protection bills, including the 2007 Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

We've never really thought of it this way, but it's true: workplace discrimination protections in Israel include protections that Lamborn has voted against, and which many conservatives staunchly oppose as "special rights" for a "lifestyle choice" that doesn't deserve protection. Now, we're hopefully past the era of Amendment 2-style overt anti-LGBT activism in Colorado–and whether we are or not, it's a fact that things have changed since 1992. Either way, it's instructive to keep in mind that Lamborn's bill would make it harder for anyone with a vocational or even potentially family tie to a federal contract to protest policies they don't like in other countries via a boycott–in Israel, Mexico, Bahrain, or anywhere else America has a free trade treaty with.

And yes, we get that a religious conservative boycott of Israel over gay rights is not found in the Book of Revelations, and therefore rather unlikely. We are, you know, hypothesizing. And it's a point worth making.

Monday Open Thread

"Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance."

–Robert Quillen

About Ken Buck’s Super Classy Obama Sighting…

Rep.-elect Ken Buck.

Rep.-elect Ken Buck.

Last Thursday, Rep.-elect Ken Buck described to his social media followers an encounter with President Barack Obama at the Washington, D.C. pizza joint We The Pizza. As you can see above, Buck had a pretty negative reaction to the mere sight of the President, which can be reasonably interpreted as not encouraging partisan gridlock-wise. You might also reasonably ask what exactly about the nation's first President of color elicits such a physical reaction from Rep.-elect Buck, to which he and his defenders will respond indignantly. Why should Buck even dignify that with a response?

Judging from just this Tweet, we expect most will have a reaction based mostly on their pre-existing view of Ken Buck. If you like him, you'll be inclined to interpret this charitably. If you don't–maybe you remember from the 2010 Senate when he said being gay is like alcoholism, or the story about that rape victim's "buyer's remorse"–you're probably doing to assume the worst.

On Facebook, it should be noted that Rep-.elect Buck elaborated a little more:

Perry and I were having lunch at We The Pizza near the Capitol before catching a plane. Secret Service shut down the restaurant and Pres Obama joined us for lunch. Obama was preceded by 20 Hispanic students for a photo op. Lost my appetite [Pols emphasis] but got a great story to share. Obama needed 35 Secret Service agents for a piece of pizza. I hope Michelle doesn't find out the Pres was eating bad food.

So, we're going to be as charitable as we feel we possibly can be, and give Buck the benefit of the doubt that the "20 Hispanic students" had nothing to do with his loss of appetite? Let's leave that at "we hope so." Some of our readers will not, and we honestly don't blame them. 

Unfortunately, there is a more basic problem here.

As the AP reports, those "20 Hispanic students" were not Hispanic.

Hours before addressing the nation on immigration, President Barack Obama left the White House for lunch.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama were taking in a midday meal with young people from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannonball, North Dakota. [Pols emphasis] They were dining on pizza and burgers at adjoining restaurants on Capitol Hill; We, The Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery.

That's right, it's the age-old pitfall for the racially insensitive, the brown skin=Hispanic fallacy! Knowing this little detail makes the charitable interpretation of Rep-elect Buck's comments we theorized above, about losing his appetite at the sight of Barack Obama and/or whatever relationship his loss of appetite may have had to those 20 Hispanic Native American students, substantially more difficult. There's really no way Buck comes out of this without some kind of ugly side in plain view–it's just a question of how ugly.

And he hasn't even been sworn in yet, folks.

Weekend Open Thread

"The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies is that they have a greater capacity to diminish us than exposed ones." 

–Cheryl Hughes

Former Governor Bill Owens Shamelessly Offers Colorado PERA Management Advice.

Governor Bill Owens, Pioneer of Colorado PERA Pension Mismanagement, Now Shamelessly Offers PERA Management Advice.

In a recent Denver Post opinion piece, former oil and gas lobbyist and Colorado Governor Bill Owens supports the latest corporate campaign attacking the Colorado PERA public pension system (11/20/2014 Denver Post):

http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_26980300/undefined?source=infinite

As per usual, corporate representatives see evil in the use of taxpayer dollars for deferred public pension compensation, but have no problem with Colorado's diversion of billions of these taxpayer dollars to unearned corporate welfare. Indeed, the elimination of the Colorado PERA public pension system would free up even more taxpayer dollars that could be targeted by corporate lobbyists. (This activity of persuading elected officials to give away public resources can be quite lucrative, see the Colorado Department of Revenue's "Colorado Tax Expenditure Report,"

https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/2012.pdf.)

In reading the recent Bill Owens Denver Post opinion piece I wondered, is the hypocrisy of Colorado politicians infinite? Do our politicians secretly compete with each other in a clandestine hypocrisy contest? Is reaching the pinnacle of hypocrisy a common life goal among politicians?

An excerpt from the Bill Owens Denver Post opinion piece:

"While PERA highlights its average retiree benefits — $3,068 monthly, according to the latest data — this statistic hides the fact that a few retirees make far more than that and the vast majority make far less. Quite simply, the benefit structure, set by the state legislature, is skewed to benefit a minority of public employees at the expense of the rest."

My reaction: This is rich. Bill Owens laments the fact that some Colorado PERA members receive greater public pension benefits than others. Allow me to explain the hypocrisy I see associated with Bill Owens' "concerns."

While in office more than a decade ago, Bill Owens championed the "Bill Owens Colorado PERA Service Credit Fire Sale" scheme (HB00-1458.) Service credit (years of service) in the Colorado PERA pension system were sold, at his urging, at a fraction of their actuarial cost. This Bill Owens scheme represents perhaps the most consequential pension mismanagement event in the history of the Colorado PERA pension system. This mismanagement increased the Colorado PERA pension system's unfunded liabilities (and thus contractual obligations borne by Colorado taxpayers) by billions of dollars. I do not blame Colorado PERA members for taking advantage of this opportunity made available to them in Colorado law at the time. (Indeed, representatives of the Colorado PERA pension system encouraged PERA members to make purchases of "service credit" in those years.) I blame elected officials and members of the Colorado PERA Board of Trustees for acquiescing to this fiscally irresponsible, political ploy. Under the "service credit purchase" scheme, a number of Colorado state legislators (including Bill's political buddies?) were able to buy years of service credit in the Colorado PERA pension plan on the cheap. They then, conveniently, found themselves moving from low-paying state legislative positions to lucrative appointments in the Administration. Thus, their ultimate Colorado PERA retirement benefit was calculated based on the higher final salaries of jobs in the Administration. Since Bill Owens was the prime mover behind this "Colorado PERA Service Credit Fire Sale," I find it astoundingly hypocritical that Bill Owens now has the temerity to complain about the fair distribution of Colorado PERA retiree benefits.

While Governor, Bill Owens persuaded (pressured?) the Colorado PERA Board of Trustees to endorse his "service credit fire sale" scheme, which they obediently and unanimously supported. Bill Owens' goal, at the time, was to rid Colorado state and local government of "expensive" older employees, encouraging them to buy these cheap years of "service credit" and qualify for early retirement. Thus, public employee labor costs were shifted from state and local governments to the Colorado PERA pension system, raising system unfunded liabilities.

The Colorado Supreme Court recently decided to ignore the evidence of Bill Owens' mismanagement of Colorado PERA (and in fact all evidence in a Colorado PERA pension lawsuit) in order to facilitate a reduction of Colorado PERA's unfunded liabilities through breach of contract. Of course, the Colorado Supreme Court necessarily ignored the Colorado and US Constitutions in the process. This transparent political favor provided by the Colorado Supreme Court (to the Colorado Legislative Branch) has tarnished the Colorado Judiciary, and diminished the careers of Colorado judges who actually believe in the Rule of Law. In reading the Decision in the case, Justus v. State, judges on the Colorado Court of Appeals see the true colors of the politically motivated Colorado Supreme Court. If the Colorado PERA pension system had been responsibly managed by past Colorado state legislators and Governors, the Colorado Supreme Court would never have found itself in a position where it was tempted to abandon constitutional principles, Colorado case law, and its integrity.

Given his history, Bill Owens' recent posturing in the Denver Post as a person even remotely qualified to offer public pension management advice lends insight into his character.

An astute observer has noted that:

"Owens dipped into PERA funds through the back door, moving state employees at the top ends of the pay grades from state paychecks to PERA paychecks. In other words, Owens reduced state costs by shifting them to PERA at the same time he reduced the state's contribution percentage, starting the slide from 107% funded to current levels. Granted the slide was accelerated by the economic downturn, but it began when the state figured out how to supplement the general fund by raiding PERA. Last year's SB-1, if upheld by the court opens the front door to PERA resources. Now, any time legislators decide they need PERA funds, they can pay for reducing further the state's contribution by reducing benefits."

(For the record, we should also note that Colorado's public sector union leaders, in supporting SB-1, held open "the SB-1 front door" for Colorado state legislators. In an unprecedented act, in 2010 these union leaders facilitated the elimination of the contractual public pension rights of their own public employee members.)

It may be that (fair or unfair) media coverage during the Owens Administration diverted attention from the responsible management of the Colorado PERA pension system. But, if media reports and blogger comments from that period of Colorado history reflect reality, the hypocrisy of our GOP "family values" Governor extends well beyond the realm of public pension management.

Ed Quillen:

"Owens moved out of the governor's mansion for a while because he and his wife, Frances, had agreed on a separation. Then they reconciled. After he left office, they divorced. There were all sorts of juicy rumors, among them one about a love child growing up in Texas, but if anyone called for Owens to resign, I missed it."

"This may have stalled Owens's national political career, which had looked promising. One right-thinking publication had touted him as America's best governor and there was serious talk of the vice-presidency or even the Oval Office."

http://edquillen.com/eq2008/20080316p.html

Free Republic:

"Owens, a devout Catholic, has touted family values as a cornerstone of his administration. Some immediately questioned what impact it would have on Owens' political career if the couple were to divorce. Owens has been mentioned by conservative Republicans as a potential presidential candidate, even though he has never publicly said he is interested in running."

Comments on the article published at FreeRepublic.com:

"I have always heard that this guy is ultra career minded. He has a PAC in Washington right now, presumably to set up his 08 bid. He also chaired the GOP Gov's Conference, and was an officer with the National Governor's Association."

"Gang, Governor Owens has had an on-going affair for many, many years. It is well known in Republican circles. You can be sure that no high ranking Republican would encourage Bill to pursue any sort of public office under any circumstances. The Party is reeling from a record number of scandals in the ethics area and is quietly getting rid of the worst offenders. You will begin to see Republicans focusing less on family values and more on fiscal and governing issues. One thing the party has realized is that a large percentage of those who loudly tout family values are the worst offenders. Please pray for Frances and the kids, all of whom spent many years home alone. Believe me, they won’t notice much of a difference after the separation."

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/977510/posts

"Hmmm, obviously these Owens fans aren't from Colorado. It's quite well known here that Owens' personal picadillos [sic] make Bill Clinton look like a saint."

http://www.usefulwork.com/shark/archives/002796.html

Conservative Columnist Vince Carroll of the Denver Post Condemns the "Bill Owens PERA Service Credit Fire Sale," July 31, 2013 Denver Post:

"The administration of Gov. Bill Owens, in a major blunder, lobbied for the fire sale as a shortsighted way to encourage early retirement and infuse new blood into the bureaucracy."

"Guessing the answer, I asked (Congressman Mike) Coffman if he had purchased years of service from PERA once upon a time. And, sure enough, he replied, 'I did purchase years of service.'"

http://www.denverpost.com/carroll/ci_23762597/carroll-secret-rep-mike-coffmans-pera-pension

(Governor Owens, Rep. Coffman has admitted to participating in your PERA "service credit fire sale" by buying years of service credit. You have a chance to be as forthright as Rep. Coffman and answer the question. Did you purchase PERA service credit in the "fire sale" yourself?)

WatchDogWire.com:

"As (Vince) Carroll notes, this problem was known as early as 2005, when David Milstead of the late, lamented Rocky wrote about it: 'But the deal got sweeter. Gov. Bill Owens, then in the early part of his first term, wanted to streamline government and bring new employees into the state work force. In 2000, with his encouragement – some say pressure – PERA cut the already-low price of purchasing extra years by 14 percent, to 15.5 percent of salary.'"

http://watchdogwire.com/colorado/2013/08/01/the-pera-fire-sale-the-gift-that-keeps-on-taking/

"Colorado’s state income tax rate was a flat 5 percent until it was lowered to 4.75 percent in 1999 and to 4.63 percent in 2000, under Gov. Bill Owens."

http://completecolorado.com/pagetwo/2013/06/12/ed-tax-proponents-will-aim-for-two-tiered-increase-in-state-income-tax/

Silver and Gold Record, May 12, 2005:

“Befort also noted that several years ago, the Legislature and Gov. Bill Owens decided to encourage higher-paid employees to retire early. Payroll expenses went down for the state, but PERA’s costs increased, he explained.”

https://www.cu.edu/sg/messages/4405.html

Friends of PERA (an organization that supported SB10-001) in "PERA Quick Facts":

"Laws passed in 1999 and 2000 to reduce the cost to purchase years of service and to provide for earlier retirement were initiated by Governor Owens' office and legislators who wanted to encourage long-term state employees to retire. At the same time that the benefit rules were made better, the employer contribution rates were reduced and the rate employees paid remained the same. These changes were made by the Executive and Legislative branches, not by the PERA board.”

http://www.friendsofpera.com/facts/index.html

CASB:

"(Henry) Sobanet also served under former Gov. Bill Owens and was intimately involved in the crafting of SB10-001, the bill passed in 2010 to shore up PERA."

http://www.casb.org/event/casb-annual-convention/saturday-sessions

Denver Post:

"Hickenlooper, a Democrat, named Henry Sobanet, formerly a budget director for Republican Gov. Bill Owens to do the same job for him."

"Sobanet worked for the Office of State Planning Budgeting as deputy director from 1999 to 2004, when former Owens appointed him as director."

http://blogs.denverpost.com/thespot/2011/01/04/hickenlooper-names-former-owens-budget-director-henry-sobanet-to-same-job/20061/

Governing article in 2006:

"In Colorado, at least some of Bill Owens' pension problem was self-inflicted, the result of his pressuring PERA to sell discounted 'service credits' to public employees, allowing them to buy more time on the job."  "Owens hoped that state employees would retire early, helping his efforts to streamline government." "Because pensions are, by their nature, a long-term problem, it's difficult to get public officials–classic short-term thinkers–to pay them serious attention even when the bills are coming due."

http://www.governing.com/topics/economic-dev/Plight-Benefits.html

GAO report, the Colorado Legislature Has Increased Colorado PERA Pension Benefits Without Paying for These Benefits:

"This was also the case in California and Colorado where pension benefit increases in the late 1990s and early in the 2000s helped drive liabilities higher."

From Friends of PERA:

"PERA has been fully funded only two years in its 75-year history – in 1999 and 2000. When it was fully funded, Governor Owens immediately pursued cutting the employer contribution rate and unwisely pushed the Board of Trustees very strongly to reduce the cost to purchase service credit. This action resulted in a very large unfunded liability increase to the fund. When PERA tried to pursue legislative changes to remedy the situation, Governor Owens vetoed the legislation because it did not include a 'defined contribution option' for state employees."

http://www.friendsofpera.com/facts/index.html

The complete story can be read here at the Denver Post:

http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_26980300/undefined?source=infinite

Discover the true nature of Colorado government at saveperacola.com.

Latinos Slam Hickenlooper’s “Path To Citizenship” Dismissal

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports, the controversy over Gov. John Hickenlooper's remarks earlier this week, in which he appeared to dismiss the aspirations of immigrants to obtain American citizenship, appears to be growing. After giving Hickenlooper a suitable period to retract his comments, the Colorado Latino Forum has run out of patience, issuing a strongly-worded statement this afternoon:

As the nation's Hispanic community Friday celebrated President Obama's executive order sparing 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, Colorado Latinos expressed their frustration with another politician — the state's Democratic governor…

"The Colorado Latino Forum is extremely disappointed in Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's recent statement regarding Latinos and citizenship," the statement began.

"The Colorado Latino Forum has long underscored that access to a path to citizenship is a key value that must be included in any meaningful future comprehensive immigration reform package that Congress debates.

"We are disappointed that immediately following his narrow re-election in which our community voted overwhelmingly for Governor Hickenlooper, his first comments regarding Latino issues demonstrate that he is out of touch with our community's priorities and values."

What we've heard is that just about every Latino interest and immigrant rights group in the state has called Gov. Hickenlooper's office to express their displeasure over what he said, and there has been no satisfactory response. The fact is, an eventual pathway to American citizenship for otherwise law-abiding, long term immigrants is a central goal of immigration reform proponents–who are deeply skeptical of the various "guest worker" programs that have been proposed as alternatives. We don't think Hickenlooper was trying to disparage immigrants' motives, but his statement that the "vast majority" of immigrants simply want to "get paid over the table" and "don't care about a pathway to citizenship" could be interpreted disparagingly. Either way, it's directly at odds with what immigration reformers are advocating for.

Whatever his intentions, this comment — and a wealthy, white politician purporting to tell a minority community what they really want — isn’t sitting well with Colorado’s Latino community…

Bottom line: the pressure may be off Hickenlooper electorally for four years, but since his re-election we've been wondering if that might result in more rigorous accountability from his left–on a variety of issues where Hickenlooper has run afoul of base Democrats, or even good politics. There has been a tendency this election season to pull punches on Hickenlooper, so as to not assist Bob Beauprez's campaign.

As of today, it looks like Hickenlooper's second honeymoon is over.

GOP Responds to Obama Immigration Action…With Lawsuit About Healthcare

We wrote earlier this week about the immigration issue and President Barack Obama's pending executive order to address the topic as Congress refuses to act. Here's the final paragraph from our post on Wednesday:

There's no way around it for the GOP: When they take control of both the House and Senate in January, they can either move forward with immigration reform or not. There is nobody left for Republicans to blame if they don't take action themselves. The GOP painted themselves into a corner with inaction on immigration, and the only way out is to make their own footprints. Ultimately, if Republicans don't actually move on the issue, 2016 voters aren't going to care why they failed to act with their Congressional majority — as Yoda might say, there is only "do" or "do not."

Facepalm city in Congress

Sigh. As CNN reports, House Speaker John Boehner just…WTF?

House Speaker John Boehner said Friday he has sued the Obama Administration in federal court over its decisions to make changes to the President's health care law, which congressional Republicans argue were unconstitutional.

The move was expected for months — the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted to approve the lawsuit in July. But Boehner had trouble retaining a law firm that would take the case because of the political furor over the controversial health care law…

…News of the lawsuit came just minutes after Boehner held a press conference on Friday to respond to the President's plan to circumvent Congress in order to make sweeping changes to the nation's immigration system by executive order.

The one-two punch from Boehner marks a new era of tension between Republicans who will officially take over Congress in January, and the President who has signaled that despite his party's losses in the midterms, he plans to proceed with his agenda without GOP cooperation. [Pols emphasis]

As CNN points out, Boehner struck out — twice — on trying to find a law firm to sue over Obamacare until convincing a George Washington law professor to take the case. But the very fact that Republicans would allow this lawsuit to become their de-facto response to Obama's executive order on immigration absolutely boggles the mind.

Aside from making some folks in the Tea Party happy, what do Republicans possibly think they can accomplish here?