Colorado lawmakers hear budget-cutting plans | AspenTimes.com

Colorado lawmakers hear budget-cutting plans

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – Gov. Bill Ritter met Tuesday with legislative leaders and lawmakers to discuss the state’s budget crisis and he warned that serious cutbacks are ahead.

In a meeting Tuesday evening with fellow Democrats at the governor’s mansion, Ritter said his administration is working with lawmakers to cut $400 million. Ritter said he will release the plan on August 24, with cuts going into effect on Sept. 1.

Ritter said it will take courage for Democrats to make the cuts necessary to balance the budget as required by the state constitution. Ritter said his Cabinet members are making recommendations and he will make a decision after discussions with legislative leaders after the Legislature gave him the power to make his own cuts and tap into budget reserves.

“We’re in a different time, and in that different time it demands us to be leaders. We need to state the case for what we need to do,” Ritter told grim-faced legislators.

Rep. John Soper, D-Thornton, asked Ritter if he would consider cutting tax breaks for businesses to raise revenue. Ritter rejected that suggestion, saying Colorado has to compete with other states for jobs and it would be counterproductive.

Ritter said he will meet later with Republicans to get their suggestions.

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Ritter said even if the economy recovers this year, major cuts will still be needed because job losses and revenue declines will affect next year’s tax revenues.

“There is not the ability on our part to do what we need this year and next year without these serious cuts,” Ritter said.

Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, told Democratic lawmakers they’re in a unique situation, dealing with a downturn in the economy, and there is no way to raise the money needed to balance the budget without making cuts.

“We’ve actually never been over this ground in the Legislature,” he said.

House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, said “we face some trying times.”

The governor’s budget director, Todd Saliman, told lawmakers the state is expected to lose 84,600 jobs in 2009 and another 8,600 in 2010.

Retail trade is expected to decline by 7.8 percent this year.

Saliman said the one bright spot is home values. He said surveys show Denver area prices declined by 9 percent, while other major metropolitan areas dropped an average 23 percent.

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