Now I know who state Sen. Bill Cadman reminds me of. He’s the ex so many of us have suffered through who lives by the credo, “Oh, yeah? Watch me.”
For years, every time the soon-to-retire Colorado Springs Republican state senator-cum-state-Senate-president pulled one weird partisan or maladjusted stunt or another, I had that déjà vu thing. At the beginning of this legislative session I stood in the Senate chambers corner, where the press is relegated to, listening to Cadman say how anxious he was to spread bipartisan cheer across the land. And then, almost immediately, he said anything that smells like the Democrats’ short list was DOA.
And so it’s gone this session. At the top of the list for Dems was the so-called “hospital provider fee.” It’s a part of the chronic Colorado budget problem inflicted on us by the misnomered “Taxpayer Bill of Rights.” What voters thought was tax limitation turned out to be a budgeting nightmare. In 2010, Colorado took advantage of federal matching Medicaid dollars in an effort to keep so many poor people from getting “free” healthcare at local hospitals. Those “freebies” have for decades been passed on to paying customers. A “hospital provider fee” was assessed, reimbursing the state for increased Medicaid costs the feds won’t cover. Colorado didn’t invent the idea. About 40 others states use it. It was a win-win situation, until the economy got better and Cadman took the wheel of the state Senate. Because of TABOR, healthy economy tax revenues mean forced “refunds” to taxpayers, even if the state is desperate for dollars, which Colorado is. The only reason TABOR refunds were triggered is because some Tea Party Republicans, read: Cadman, say the hospital fee money is tax dollars.
Yeah, it’s that stupid. It did mean that hundreds of millions of dollars in school and road funding was in jeopardy because Cadman and Co. don’t like Medicaid. He stayed the course, even though members of his own party tried to do an end run around his obstinacy several times this session. Just like the spiteful ex who, while packing up their crap to move out, starts a fire with your favorite books because, hey, he was cold, and you’d already read them anyway, and that’s why you couldn’t wait to get rid of him.
Although he’s finally term limited and toast in just a few days, this final blow to the Colorado budget is his parting gift to all of us.
Of course stiffing the state of a few hundred million bucks is preferable to what he wanted to give a fellow lawmaker in 2005 when he and Cadman were serving in the state House. They got into it over a bill creating special license plates for families of soldiers killed in action. After calling each other and some bill amendments “garbage,” Cadman told his fellow legislator, “If you try that again, I’ll ram my fist up your ass.” First he tried to deny it. Then he doubled down to defend it.
He had similar love for Aurora’s Tom Sullivan, who has spent that last four years as a legislative activist after his son was murdered during the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. During a 2013 town hall event at a Denver newspaper, focusing on gun regulation, Cadman snapped at Sully when he tried to press a collage of pictures of his dead son into the conversation, Cadman shot back, “I know what he looks like,” and once again he made big headlines for his diplomacy and forward thinking.
And here we are at the end of his legislative career, and he’s holding up critical funding for roads and schools, saying that it’s all Democrats’ fault for working to improve health care in Colorado and cut insurance rates the rest of have to pay.
“When the Democrats are ready to get serious about entitlement reform, and about establishing budgeting priorities that serve the entire state, not just the entitlement state, they will find willing partners in Republicans,” Cadman said in a statement Tuesday.
Smirking in the waning hours of his one-term, one-seat majority “reign of error” over the state Senate, there Cadman is at the helm. Arms crossed. Burning your books. Cutting up your favorite shirt. Scratching your vinyl collection. Threatening to lend you a hand in a place you don’t want it. Because he can, and he’s smiling.
Take a breath, Colorado. Two more days and the session ends and he’s nothing but a dark, brief part of state history. It will be miraculous if Republicans are able to keep control of the state Senate this fall, unlikely after anti-Trump voters get even for a session filled with personhood and whacky gun bill shenanigans. Voters will be anxious to take political revenge on lawmakers who set fire to a chance for serious road and school money, equal pay legislation and much more. But even if the miracle happens and the GOP leads the upper House, there will be another state senator running the show.
So better luck next time, Colorado. You’re going to need it.