Looking back on this legislative session’s 34 billion dollars in expenditures, it is abundantly clear Coloradans will be unable to afford funding our state government.
The problem is not only the amount of money it will cost to run Colorado. So much spending might conceivably be defensible if it were used to help create jobs and recover from the pandemic. Instead, Democrats spent the last five months attacking an already bruised economy and exacerbating rising crime.
By the time the session began, my Republican colleagues and I saw a clear mandate: Get Colorado’s economy back on track. The Democrats had other ideas. Rather than use their colossal spending power to help our struggling state, Gov. Jared Polis and the Democrats did the exact opposite.
One of their biggest attacks was against Colorado’s second-largest industry, agriculture, which holds significance not only in the jobs it provides for hardworking Coloradans but also for the millions across our state who enjoy its services. Disruptions in the supply chain caused the agriculture industry to suffer greatly during the pandemic, and as a result, all Coloradans felt the impact.
A prime example of the attacks on agriculture in Colorado was Polis declaring March 20 “Meat-Out-Day” to boycott ranching. Fortunately, his tone-deaf “holiday” backfired and led to barbecues across the state to support our ranchers.
Unfortunately, Democrat legislators echoed the Governor’s anti-agriculture sentiment through making new laws this session. Ranchers will not see the same good fortune they experienced with the “Meat-Out-Day” after they are hit with regulations they cannot afford.
Senate Bill 21-087, “Agriculture Workers’ Rights,” is a bill full of wrongs. The bill removes many of the exemptions that farmers and ranchers have enjoyed on account of farming’s unique challenges. Labor costs and hour restrictions will prevent farmers and ranchers from efficiently providing the goods we all enjoy. Family farms that have served Colorado for generations will struggle to stay in business.
Meanwhile, Colorado’s cost of living is soaring, having risen 2% in the last two months alone according to the consumer price index. Gas prices are continuing to rise. The average price has increased over $1.20 per gallon from last year and is expected to continue rising.
Despite these economic challenges, Democrats saw fit to push through a 5.4-billion-dollar transportation bill. They plan on raising $3.8 billion by creating new or by increasing existing fees on everything from ride-sharing to the already expensive gasoline. They ignore the citizens’ request to “ask first” before raising taxes or fees.
After cleaning last summer’s graffiti off the Capitol building, our state Legislature introduced Senate Bill 21-182, which would have essentially legalized certain crimes on school grounds by preventing officers from arresting students who committed certain offenses such as possession of marijuana, theft, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct.
Another soft-on-crime bill, Senate Bill 273, would have limited arresting powers and promoted “community policing” as an alternative to law enforcement engagement. Thankfully, vocal opposition killed both bills, but they still reveal Democrats’ true priorities. You should keep your eyes out for both of these bills to return for the next legislative session.
These reforms could not have been proposed at a worse time. Crime rates in almost every area of the state increased during the pandemic. Violent crime rose 51% in Denver, 45% in Aurora, and across the state motor vehicle crime increased 39%.
While Democrats oversaw the increase in crime, they simultaneously worked to disarm law-abiding citizens through no fewer than six gun control measures, the largest number of gun restrictions in the legislature’s history. All being done while they pursue a revolving, jail door policy called “cashless bail” for criminals.
In this session, Democrats were faced with a faltering economy, struggling agriculture, rising cost of living, and rising crime. Their solution was to limit law enforcement while attacking Colorado’s two largest industries through fees and regulations, which will undoubtedly increase the cost of living for Coloradans even further. They did it to the tune of $34 billion.
It is time to stop paying for our own affliction. On the brighter side of things, the 2022 election is coming up in a little better than a year. It is time to turn around this state with some common-sense government.
Republican State Rep. Rod Bockenfeld represents House District 56, encompassing Eastern Adams and Arapahoe counties, including Southeast Aurora.