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Colorado House Republicans find lots of cash for transportation ‘in the cushions of the governor’s mansion’

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This week’s House Republican video is good for a couple of smiles. It serves up a lot of food for thought about the state budget and paying for transportation.

The House GOP has contended all along that a tax increase isn’t needed to fund billions for widening interstates and other core transportation needs. (Transit, not so much.)

House Bill 1242 already has been significantly amended by Senate Republicans. The House wanted to ask taxpayers to approve a 0.62 percent sales tax, but the Senate last week reduced the tax to 0.50 and proposed taking $100 million annually out of the state budget.

So as the House haggled over the budget last week, the Republican minority tried in vain to pass cuts. And in this week’s video, members showed the savings they found.

The prize for the best pitch goes to Rep. Kevin Van Winkle of Highlands Ranch, who proposed cutting $755,610 from the $4.5 million budget for the Gov. John Hickenlooper’s plane.

“Even the king’s chariots had to ride on the roads of the people, and the governor of Colorado is no better,” Van Winkle said. “Cut Hick’s chariot. Fix our roads.”

Rep, Susan Beckman, a former Arapahoe County commissioner and the wife of Littleton Mayor Bruce Beckman, knows a few things about government budgets. She found $1.28 in position-vacancy money left in the budgets of large state agencies that could be used for transportation. She flipped over the piece of paper with the saving figure, to show the words “Without Raising Taxes.”

Reps. Steve Humphrey of Eaton said he and Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs found “$500,000 in the cushions of the governor’s mansion.” Wow, Hickenlooper must have let some of his Republican friends sleep on the sofa.

Rep. Yeulin Willett of Grand Junction said the state Commission on Higher Education doesn’t have the workload it used to and proposed cutting the staff from 30 to five, saving, he said, saving $1.25 million.

In all House Republicans say they can find $593 million they consider fat in the state budget. Democrats and recipients of services that would be cut.

Voters in November, however, could be asked to pass a tax increase to help replay $3.5 billion in loans, which lawmakers have said would cost about $300 million a year.

“There are all kinds of things we can do in terms of taking a hard look at our state budget to fund transportation,” said Rep. Cole Wist of Centennial, the House assistant minority leader.

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