There are two operating theories about John Hickenlooper's conservative approach to governing to date:
Operating Theory 1. John Hickenlooper is actually a moderate Democrat with a center-left philosophy. Like Bill Clinton in '94, he knows that the electorate that awaits his re-election is a moderate electorate. Therefore, Hickenlooper will not drift far from the center.
Operating Theory 2. John Hickenlooper is a liberal lying in wait. Like any good politician, Hick's tough approach to governing right now is merely a reflection of the mood of the electorate. When the mood of voters drifts, so will Hickenlooper, chasing higher taxes and more government early, often, and as frequently as his own imagination will allow.
It is way too soon to prove or disprove either operating theory. But Hickenlooper gave cynics and critics who support Operating Theory Number 2 a major slice of evidence when Hick joined a knee-jerk band of Democratic Governors in opposing reforms to Medicaid that would give Governors greater flexibility to address this budget busting entitlement.
A Deloitte study in 2010 found that:
By 2030 Medicaid costs could rise to somewhere between 35% and 50% of states budgets. State budgets will be stretched by rapidly growing costs for long-term care, an aging population, and government mandates for increased access to health care.
Hickenlooper has preached innovation and flexibility throughout his short stint as Governor, so why would he fight an effort to give the states (including his own) a shot at making the social safety net work smarter, and more efficiently?
This site hasn't been shy about commending Governor Hickenlooper when he does the right thing. And thus far, more often than not, Hick has. But he earns a rhetorical smackdown for this recent foray into outrageous, partisan DC grandstanding.
Does Hick think Washington knows better than Denver?
Of course he doesn't. This is politics plain and simple.
The Democrats in Washington view the GOP's entitlement reform as their best political shot at re-taking power. And rather than save future generations from mountains of debt driven by entitlement spending, Democrats are playing class warfare, scaring the elderly, the sick, and the indigent into believing that the states can't be trusted to do social policy better than Washington.
New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been governing in a surprisingly conservative manner much like Hickenlooper, notably did not sign on to the letter. That is because Cuomo is getting serious about New York's budget problem, proposing cutting spending to close a $10 billion budget gap, including a billion dollars in Medicaid spending.
On this political posturing by Hickenlooper, we call BS. This is raw partisanship, and it is beneath John Hickenlooper. Our Governor is astute enough to know that bipartisan goodwill can evaporate faster than it was accumulated. With too many more forays like this into DC partisan politics, Hick will witness that evaporation of goodwill first hand.