"I see nothing."

“I see nothing.”

Hey Hickenlooper, we want our money back!

You know, that $2 million the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment kicked back to a private firm in a no-bid contract?

The money circumvented around the legislature to buy equipment for the state’s high altitude emissions lab to compete with private business?

Yes, that money.

Talk about mission creep, the outdated “lab” formed in the 1970s wants to create new reasons for its existence and paychecks, so the state government can compete with private businesses that currently do research for the EPA and universities.

We would like to know who said that state employees could spend $2 million to create a new lab and why was the money hidden from lawmakers?

They are the ones we elected to prioritize and allocate tax dollars, not the faceless bureaucrats who amended the contract with Envirotest at the end of 2014 to allow for this unique allocation of dollars.

And where did the $2 million come from? Is the state charging too much money for consumers to undergo outdated emissions testing? If it is making such an enormous profit, shouldn’t that money have gone directly into the state’s coffers? The answer to both of those questions is “yes.”

In a suspicious amendment to the contract signed in November 2014, the state agency unilaterally permitted Envirotest to increase the fees it charges the general public from $15 to $25 for TSI vehicle inspections. In return for its generous fee increase to the general public, the state is slated to receive the $2 million in new equipment for its high altitude pet project lab in Aurora. This egregious behavior all amounts to an indirect tax on the citizens of Colorado and an appropriation of equipment by the agency with no public process and no approval by any member of the Colorado legislature.

For that matter, why is Colorado still mandating the testing for newer cars? Vehicles manufactured since 1996 are already on-board diagnostics compliant. In other words, cars carry an emissions station around with them, and if the vehicle exceeds the emissions standards, that annoying “check engine” light comes on and we rush it to an auto shop. And, vehicles now days automatically adjust to higher altitudes.

But still consumers are charged $25 to get newer cars tested, with twenty-five cents going back to the state for every test. We suspect this is where the $2 million came from.

These issues are coming to light after the Joint Budget Committee held a hearing in February about the work done at the lab, and questioned who made the decision to build a new in-house lab and why they needed this equipment in the first place.

Even after the lab recently responded to more questions in writing from Sen. Kevin Grantham, lawmakers didn’t get a straight answer to many questions.

This was our favorite:

Is there legislative approval for the contract amendment with Envirotest, which required Envirotest to purchase this equipment for the state’s benefit and transfer ownership to the state at the end of the contract period?

You read that correctly. The health and environment agency allowed the company to increase its fees TO YOU, under the radar, to buy equipment FOR THEM.

Looks to us like the legislature needs to ask Gov. Hickenlooper about this massive nest egg boondoggle. Did they skirt the rules to violate the procurement code?

We smell audit.

At the very least, put a halt to the $2 million in spending until this can be sorted out.