Today Governor Hickenlooper vetoed a bipartisan bill that aimed to bring structural reform to a government program that has skyrocketed to over $5 billion of the state budget. The bill was a key demand made by Legislative Republicans as part of the budget deal. Hick committed to sign it, and then reneged. Two weeks ago we pointed out that the Guv was under massive pressure from liberal special interest groups to cave on his promise to sign it. If a Governor is only as good as his word, Hick is less a Governor today than he was yesterday, because today Hick — the straight talking non-politician — broke his word and caved under the weight of a little interest group pressure.
The bill in question would have required families with children enrolled in the government funded Childrens Health Plan (CHP+) in the 205 to 250 of the federal poverty level to contribute a $20 premium per child per month and $10 per additional child, capped at $50/month. For a family of four that income level falls between $44-55,000. Twenty seven states already have a similar program.
The bill passed with considerable bipartisan support, counting Sen. Mary Hodge (D-Brighton), Sen. Pat Steadman(D-Denver) and Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) among its cosponsors. Sen. Steadman rejected other Democrats assault on the bill, who had claimed it would hurt poor families, saying "this is not the entire universe of CHP enrollees. It's families that are on the higher end of income thresholds."
With the bills failure, Senator Kent Lambert lamented that it represented the loss of "the only structural reform of expenditures in the state’s $5 billion CHP and Medicaid programs." With it gone, Hickenlooper has made a move away from his leadership role on spending reform and back towards the standard Democrat position of leaving the fiscal mess for the next guy. So much for austerity and making tough choices, eh Guv?
It's also a bad sign for the goodwill Hickenlooper had developed among Republicans as a Governor who stands by his word and can play a leadership role in budget negotiations. Speaker McNulty is particularly not pleased:
"I am extremely disappointed that Governor Hickenlooper broke from the budget framework that we agreed to by vetoing Senate Bill 213. Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate took an important step on welfare reform and the governor took a step back. That said, welfare reform is now in his court. We must ease the burden on working families and small businesses who are paying for these government programs."
We were hoping with Washington, DC Democrats refusing to offer a plan to deal with entitlement spending that at least Governor Hickenlooper would buck the Democrat trend and stick by a first step in a long and tough process to save the country from fiscal calamity. Looks like business as usual is back. Too bad. We were enjoying Hick's budget leadership.