Owens says he will focus efforts defending administration’s gains
DENVER – Gov. Bill Owens said Monday he will spend his last two years in office defending his administration’s accomplishments over the past six years, including increased testing for public schools, improved funding for transportation projects across the state, and tort reform in the auto insurance industry.The governor also said he accepts part of the blame for Republican defeats in November that cost his party a U.S. Senate seat and control of both houses in the Legislature, calling it a “one-time” event.In an interview with the Associated Press, Owens said Democrats scored big wins in Colorado because of the popularity of Attorney General Ken Salazar and his brother John, who took a Senate seat and a House seat from Republicans, not because voters rejected Republican platforms.He said his goal now is to keep Democrats from dismantling gains his administration made when Republicans were in control.”We’re probably going to be playing defense. There is going to be some working with the Legislature, making sure we don’t slip back,” Owens said.Owens said that as titular head of the Republican Party, he accepts part of the blame for Republican losses in November and said his team lost because Democrats were better fundraisers and better organizers, not because of their opposition to gay marriage or support for the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.He said Republicans also were not defeated because of their refusal to put a measure on the November ballot that hurt the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which bars lawmakers from raising taxes without voter approval, unless Democrats agreed to loosen the reins on a constitutional requirement that the state increase funding for public schools.Owens said he will support a plan this year that asks voters to ease the fiscal restraints of TABOR, but promised to be back next year asking Democrats to support plans to ease the requirements for public school funding.Owens said the state’s economy is improving, but the fiscal restraints are holding back the state’s ability to grow by hurting funding for transportation, education and other projects businesses want before they will expand.Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald (D-Golden), who is Summit County’s state senator, said Owens is forgetting the jobs that were lost the past three years and the deep cuts in health care and higher education.”I’d like to believe we’re rebounding and things are getting better, but foreclosures are up and bankruptcies are up. That does not bespeak a healthy economy,” she said.Fitz-Gerald said Democrats are willing to consider some of the temporary, one-time fixes to shore up the state budget that Democrats criticized last year, including the sale of the state’s share of the tobacco settlement.”I wish we were saying we would get a permanent solution out of this, but I’m not sure Colorado is there yet,” she said.Fitz-Gerald said she expects Owens to support changes to TABOR, but declined to say whether she would stand beside Owens next year if Owens asks voters to ease the restraints of Amendment 23 requiring increased school funding.”There were proposals to Amendment 23 that were palatable to my side of the aisle, but we’re still not funding education the way we should,” she said.
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