With an ever-widening gap between Democrats and Governor Hickenlooper over Hickenlooper's Chris Christie-sized budget cuts, now is the time for Republicans to step up to the plate and lead. Call it the conservative’s moment of truth.
This gulf between Democrats and Hickenlooper gives Republicans the leverage to make some serious headway in cutting government spending in a bipartisan fashion. The liberals over at Coloradopols like to make hay out of the minor shades of difference between Speaker McNulty and Senate Minority Leader Kopp, which pale in comparison to the Pacific Ocean-sized gap between Hickenlooper and Pace and Shaffer’s caucuses. At a press conference with Sen. Shaffer, fellow Democrat Sen. Bacon said he hopes Hickenlooper's budget is DOA.
We'd call that a serious divide. Can you ever imagine Pelosi publicly wishing for Obama’s priorities to show up on Congress’s doorstep in a body bag?
The first test will be the Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee, standing strong with Hickenlooper. While standing by a Democratic Governor may be anathema to some JBC Republicans, it is their chance to do what they promised — cut spending. And conservatives across the state will be watching.
Beyond standing behind Hickenlooper’s budget cuts, it will also be key for Republicans to not allow any draining of the state’s reserves as a cop out to serious spending cuts. As Speaker McNulty pointed out, in 08’-09’ revenues were 17% lower than projected and in ’09-’10 the actual revenues were 11% lower than projected. As a point of fiscal common sense, draining state reserves would be not just imprudent but display a complete lack of historical sense. Hickenlooper is right to double reserves to 4%.
While it may prove difficult to stand by Gov. Hickenlooper, thanks to what will surely be a Fallujah-style attack by lobbyists on the proposed cuts, cutting deals would be a massive mistake. If Republicans balk and allow Gov. Hickenlooper to take the mantle of fiscal discipline, they will pay for it many times over. Rather, Republicans need to let Democrats explain to voters why they are the only ones not willing to make the hard decisions.
If they cave, Republicans will be held to account like those who voted for the bank bailout. Remember what happened to those folks in primaries last year?
Here’s to hoping Republicans seize their opportunity to lead.
If Republicans and Hick do stick together, conservatives can cheer a new governing coalition in Denver, one that's comprised of tough-minded fiscal conservatives in the legislature and a Governor who is sober and serious to the fiscal challenges of the state.