With the start of a new year, we have new legislators showing up both in Denver and in Washington, D.C. Those showing up in D.C. are going to find that little has changed, although there are fewer Republicans in both houses. Those showing up in Denver are going to find that all committees will be chaired by Democrats because they achieved their goal of winning back the House.
I had expected that the first bill to be brought before Colorado's House would be the Civil Unions bill, since it was the last bill defeated by Republican procedural tricks last spring as the special legislative session was gaveled to a close. But I was pleasantly surprised; the first bill getting attention is a jobs bill, one that Gov. Hickenlooper said is one of his priorities for this session.
Although my deadline leaves me looking at a crystal ball, instead of the actual text of a bill, on Monday legislators proposed providing as much as $20 million in grants ranging in size from $150,000 for research and development to $500,000 for infrastructure. The $20 million would be provided annually to attract more tech companies to Colorado. The bill, which has at least one Republican sponsor, seems to have bipartisan support, although Mesa County's legislators may have trouble understanding that high-tech jobs are high-paying jobs, since they are not usually located in the middle of the oil patch.
The gist of the bill is to encourage tech companies to use Colorado's university system's research arms and the federal laboratories that are already here. The idea is that collaboration will create new technological advances, and thus lure new jobs. Colorado School of Mines, the University of Colorado and Colorado State University already have robust research institutions on campus. Unfortunately, Tim Foster has yet to establish much pure research at CMU, where the Water Center is thriving, but not involved in pure research, and the body farm appears to be dead.
Moving east to Washington, we'll find plenty of drama. Having avoided the "fiscal cliff," they are promising more ideological battles over the sequestration and raising the debt limit. Both of these events will play themselves out within the next 60 days. One can only hope that they are actually resolved, and then Washington can get back to solving the problems they were sent to solve. One that comes to mind immediately is the continuing high unemployment.
As a refresher, sequestration refers to the cuts that are automatically built into a bill that was passed the last time the two sides decided to pass a revenue bill. Since neither side trusts the other, they built a bill that neither side considered a win. Sequestration has cuts to every program in the federal budget, including defense. The big three, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, are somewhat protected in the sequestration, which encourages Democrats, but irritates Republicans. Republicans have been trying to do away with all three since the day they were introduced; something that amuses me when looking at how locals vote.
We are one of the lowest income counties in the state, subject to frequent boom and bust cycles in the extractive industries. We strategically asked seniors to move to Grand Junction after Black Sunday because of the stable incomes they are afforded thanks to Social Security and Medicare. Yet we consistently vote for Republicans despite their promise to drown government in a bath tub, which includes the big three. We even vote for Republicans with a history of stiffing creditors, lying to the boss, and believing work hours are just a suggestion. The bill that made the Bush tax cuts permanent for most Americans gave a two-month reprieve to sequestration.
The battle that is harder to understand is the debt limit. Congress allocates funds, with all allocation bills starting in the House. Once the bill has cleared the Senate and been signed by the president, it is law. The debt ceiling only needs to be raised when the already approved spending exceeds the revenue being received by the Treasury. What Congress is doing is refusing to pay for the programs they already approved.
Try that one with your creditors.
Claudette Konola has been thinking about jobs for Colorado since she ran on that platform in 2010. She blogs at www.Konola4Colorado and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.