Frustrated Democrats want Republicans to compromise on budget crisis
DENVER – House Democrats said Tuesday they are frustrated over their inability to get the GOP to compromise on a plan to solve the state’s fiscal crisis and urged Gov. Bill Owens and other Republicans to forget their tax-cut pledges and help find a solution.Owens said a compromise is still possible as long as Democrats are willing to ensure that tax surplus refunds will resume after the state fixes its current economic problems.”I’m not willing to go as far as the Democrats want to go taking money out of the pockets of the private sector,” Owens said.Owens talked twice with House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, on Tuesday in an effort to break the impasse that has blocked agreement on a plan to present to voters in November asking them to untie the state’s hands so it can deal with budget problems.Both Owens and Romanoff want to reduce the state income tax rate to 4.5 percent. Romanoff wants government spending to return to the levels of 2000, before the recession hit, which critics said would virtually eliminate refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.Owens wants the state to keep $500 million each year normally refunded under TABOR, which Democrats argue won’t give the state the money it needs.Lawmakers say they are caught between the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which limits the government’s ability to tax and spend, and Amendment 23, which requires annual increases in public school spending. Both parties tried and failed to come up with a plan to put on the November ballot when Republicans refused to do anything that would dismantle TABOR and its taxpayer refunds and Democrats vowed to protect Amendment 23.The lack of a long-term solution will force lawmakers to cut $234 million from the budget beginning July 1 while at the same time mailing refund checks to taxpayers.Romanoff said Owens has refused to provide a list of the state’s needs over the next 30 years, which is necessary for any long-term solution to the budget problem. Owens said a list compiled for Romanoff is unreasonable and said the state couldn’t spend all of the money that would be provided.House Majority Leader Alice Madden, D-Boulder, said Republicans are balking at a solution because they don’t want to change the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, forcing Democrats to pare the list of the state’s needs to a bare minimum rather than providing enough money to help the state get back on its feet economically.”We’re being pushed to do this because people signed a tax-cut pledge,” Madden said.
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