UPDATE: Dave Perry of the Aurora Sentinel tears into Bill Cadman:
Cadman’s polemic dia-Trump stems from an argument over Colorado’s constitutional tax provision that requires voters to approve tax increases. There is no tax increase at issue here. The problem is the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights creates an arbitrary and convoluted budget baseline. If tax revenues grow past a certain point, even without a tax increase, money must be “refunded” to state residents. When Colorado expanded its federal Medicaid program as part of the Affordable Care Act, it also created a hospital fee to help offset that, a decision that enjoyed bipartisan support, because it made sense.
Now, some Republicans want that hospital fee, collecting about $350 million a year, to be counted as taxes, forcing a taxpayer refunds and a massive hole in the state budget.
Even though Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has said her office does not take issue with continuing to label the hospital fee as a fee and not tax revenue, and even though members of Cadman’s own party want to spend that Medicaid fee to pay the state’s Medicaid bills and avoid massive budget cuts, Cadman and a handful of tea party elites continue to hold the rest of Colorado Republicans hostage with the same kind of tactical fear and extortion that has elevated Donald Trump to the top of GOP presidential ticket.
Senate President Bill Cadman.
This week, tensions between the one-seat GOP Colorado Senate majority and the Democratic-controlled House, Gov. John Hickenlooper, and a sweeping bipartisan coalition of civic, local government, and other organizations over stabilizing the state budget with a technical fix exploded into open press-conference warfare. The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reported yesterday:
Democrats tried to pick a fight Tuesday with Republicans to allow a full debate in the Colorado Senate on a plan to take the state’s hospital provider fee out from under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, and not just quietly kill it in a committee.
Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, and other Democratic senators lambasted Senate Republicans for siding with a conservative group funded by out-of-state billionaires over the matter, rather than ordinary Coloradans.
The Democrats were talking about Americans For Prosperity, a right-leaning national group that is funded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch.
That group, known as AFP, has been vocal in Colorado in recent months calling on Republicans to oppose taking the provider fee, paid by hospitals to fund health care programs for the poor, out from under TABOR.
Pushing a strident ideologue conservative agenda as part of a national organizing strategy, Americans for Prosperty, a large organization that receives major funded from the “libertarian” Koch brothers, recently was in the news as the principal opposition to Colorado Springs’ recent successful tax increase campaign to pay for badly-needed road repairs.
Americans for Prosperity’s Colorado affiliate has come on stronger than ever in this year’s legislative session, demonstrating a deep level of influence over Senate President Cadman and his narrow majority. That influence was revealed again when Cadman himself credited AFP with winning that majority–a comment he was awkwardly forced to walk back, but by then the damage had been done. Today, the public face of the Colorado Senate GOP majority is Sean Paige, a former AFP Colorado employee whose salary is widely rumored to be “privately” funded.
As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Megan Schrader reports:
Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, spoke at [AFP’s] event and was criticized for his endorsement of the group, specifically thanking them for the work they do knocking on doors, talking about the issues, and mobilizing the grass roots. “I can tell you this. I don’t think I would be president of the Senate if it wasn’t for the efforts that you and yours did in previous elections and we look forward to continuing our partnership with you,” according to an audio recording of the event provided by The Durango Herald.
Cadman responded to the attack on the motives of his caucus in an email.
Conservatives share stances on key issues facing the state, he said.
“Twisting that into some kind of conspiracy, conveniently centered around the left’s usual bogeymen, the Koch brothers, suggests a little paranoia, mixed with a lot of partisan posturing,” Cadman said…
Obviously when it’s done in the open, it’s hard to call it a conspiracy. But, as Ashby reported in the Sentinel, when cornered on the increasingly urgent question of the technical fix to the hospital provider fee to comply with TABOR without even more budget trauma, Cadman lashed out with a positively looney diatribe you have to read to believe:
“It’s astounding that the same group of Democrats who generated historic recalls of their own members, who incited a lawsuit against the state of Colorado from 55 of our own sheriffs, who caused nearly a dozen counties to seek secession from Colorado, [Pols emphasis] and who pushed multiple billion-dollar tax hikes rejected by Colorado citizens, think they should be given the authority of the majority when it comes to bill assignments,” Cadman said.
Got that? Recalls that were undone a year later. A lawsuit Jon Caldara “the sheriffs” lost again two days ago. Rejected tax hikes that weren’t referred by the legislature. And above all, the “North Colorado” secession movement that was laughed off by voters and made the Eastern Plains the butt of nationwide jokes. These are the justifications being held up for opposing something the entire rest of the state, including Republicans across Colorado and members of Cadman’s own GOP caucus, support.
It’s totally insane, folks. To say this not how government is supposed to work is a huge understatement. Perhaps never in the state’s history has a 700 vote/one seat single chamber majority been used to stonewall otherwise total consensus on a matter so important to the state’s fiscal health. Yes, the subject is technical, but the pain Cadman and his one-seat Senate majority will cause with their intransigence won’t be.
It’s possible, with Democrats widely expected to retake the Colorado Senate this year, and term-limited Cadman awaiting his next career move on the money side of Republican politics, there’s just nobody who cares anymore. That would be likely also good for Democrats politically–but bad for Colorado, you know, objectively.