The story of Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler's multimillion-dollar budget shortfall, and subsequent battle with the powerful bipartisan Joint Budget Committee seeking taxpayer funds to cover it, escalated dramatically this week. As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:
A simmering feud between Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler and the Joint Budget Committee erupted again this week over letters from Gessler accusing lawmakers of "political posturing."
But two members of the JBC — Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, and Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen — said the Republican secretary of state is the one playing political games.
"I'm disgusted, totally disgusted by the tone, the rudeness, calling us liars," Gerou said Thursday. "He doesn't sound like a governor." [Pols emphasis]
Late Monday, after we last visited the story, Gessler responded to the Joint Budget Committee with an angry letter accusing the committee of all manner of slights against him, both procedural and personal (embedded after the jump via the Colorado Independent).
“I am sorely disappointed with your committee’s behavior,” Gessler writes to open his letter, and “I am frustrated that the committee squelched any opportunity to directly discuss these issues with me.
He argues, as he has in the past, that his budget was thrown off, not by his decision to slash fees on businesses and nonprofits, but by an election-reform bill passed last year by Democratic lawmakers that has overburdened his office.
Just a year ago, he says, “we carried a comfortable $1.9 million surplus. But… the legislature shoved through a partisan election bill that severely damaged our budget.”
But as the Durango Herald's Joe Hanel ably reported in January, that's just not the case. Gessler slashed fees on businesses to a much greater extent than was necessary to keep his office's former surplus within allowable limits. While a tempting idea for a politician seeking higher office, Gessler's fee cuts are the real reason his office ran into the red implementing House Bill 13-1303, last year's election modernization bill endorsed by and authored in consultation with county clerks from both parties. Gessler "severely damaged" his own budget, long before this bill was ever introduced. As fellow Republican Rep. Cheri Gerou makes clear above, nobody's buying Gessler's political posturing–and Gessler is the one doing the posturing.
Bottom line: Gessler is wildly overplaying his hand by getting snooty with the JBC, and the absolute last thing he needs now is to incur the open wrath of powerful fellow Republicans on fiscal responsibility as he battles Tom Tancredo, Greg Brophy, and those other guys for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. But to be honest, this boorish, thin-skinned combativeness may just plain be who Scott Gessler is at the end of the day.
Gessler reportedly likes being called "Honey Badger," but "Money Badger" may not go over so well.