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My Side

Michael Huttner

One month ago, Gov. Bill Owens claimed that he was going to focus on being governor of Colorado. Since then, he has staged numerous national television interviews, crafted articles for the Wall Street Journal and the New Hampshire Union Leader, and on Oct. 19 he was the subject of George Will’s syndicated column in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

It’s not surprising that Gov. Owens would promote his national ambitions on the taxpayer dime. Nor is it surprising that he’d target a far-off state known for its early presidential primary.

The surprise is the facts regarding Owens’ record are selective, outdated or simply not true.

Let’s take the economy. George Will cites Owens’ high marks in a report conducted by the Cato Institute. Political bias aside, the study was released in 2002, and its data goes back years before then.

While the governor blames the nation’s economic downturn for Colorado’s problems, the truth is that Colorado has done much worse during his tenure than other states. Governing Magazine measures Colorado’s eco-nomic momentum based on changes in employment and personal income compared to the national average. In 2000, Colorado ranked 1st of the 50 states for economic momentum. By 2003, under Gov. Owens’ watch, Colorado dropped to 40th, the greatest decline of any single state over the three-year period.

Last month, a University of Colorado economist cited Colorado’s 1.9 percent decline in employment last year, which put the state 50th and noted Colorado was ranked last for personal income growth in 2002 after leading that measure during the 1990s.

It is no wonder that the National Conference of State Legislators reported that in November 2002, Colorado had the third worst budget deficit as a percentage of its overall budget in the nation.

This also may explain why last week, the ranking Republican member of our state’s budget committee suggested that we may have to stop funding some of our state’s colleges and universities.

The governor also touts his record on education, citing an outdated study. Owens fails to mention that in the same study, Colorado ranked in the bottom five for investment in K-12 education and providing insurance for low-income children. Two weeks ago, the governor worsened the pain by announcing that Colorado will no longer accept new children into its children’s health plan, despite a hefty federal match.

These statistics aren’t shared to simply show the flaws in Will’s and Owens’ self-serving articles.

The statistics are important because the people of Colorado have the right to hold their governor accountable ” as they have in California.

The people of Colorado deserve better than a governor who tries to take credit for the passage of a Constitutional amendment which was approved in 1992. Or one who attempts to balance his state’s budget by triggering a higher property tax for our state’s seniors in 2003. Or even one whose focus is to set himself up after his term expires in 2006.

If there is one message we can leave the governor, it is not whether the information cited is accurate, or even whether you have an interest in running for national office.

Instead, the message is that the people of Colorado deserve a governor who will articulate to us, the media and public in Colorado, on when he will start focusing, completely and honestly, on saving our state from further economic downturn, solving our fiscal problems and returning jobs and growth to the people of Colorado.

” Michael Huttner is the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Progressive Network, His e-mail address is

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