The Long Bill progresses through Congress..
Republican lawmakers accused Democrats of courting disaster by adding 1,334 new state jobs in the state budget as the Colorado economy - and tax revenues - are tanking.
"Will the state have the money to pay for that?" Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, asked fellow members of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday before they advanced the $17.6 billion budget bill. The state may be forced to lay off all the new hires, or raid coffers as it did during the 2001 recession, McNulty said.
But Gov. Bill Ritter and fellow Democrats said Republicans talk a good game about cracking down on crime and improving the state's economy, then duck the tab for hiring people to get the job done.
"Look at the places where the (jobs) are added: prisons and higher education," Ritter said. "There are people in this building that will build prisons 'til the cows come home and then they turn around and try to criticize you for staffing them."
Joint Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, echoed that frustration.
"I think it is the height of hypocrisy for this legislature to increase criminal penalties to lengthen sentences and then criticize the necessary steps that you have to take in order to put those individuals safely away (in prison)," he told the appropriations committee and McNulty.
The sharp exchanges foreshadowed today's House floor debate over the budget bill.
Ritter said there is a 750-bed prison being built now, and the state has a low ratio of parole officers to offenders, which he considers a public safety issue.
"Am I adding parole officers? You bet. Am I adding corrections officers? You bet I am," Ritter said.
Rocky Mountain News