paul lundeen Archives - Colorado Politics

Joey BunchJoey BunchDecember 18, 20172min6230

A group of Colorado Springs-area Republican politicos partnered with local organizations to provide gifts and necessities during the holidays.

The effort, called a Different Kind of Christmas, raised at least $7,500 (and counting) in gifts, donations and in-kind support for Restore Innocence, Sarah’s Home, Free Our Girls, Break the Silence, Springs Rescue Mission and other Colorado-based organizations.

Organizers and supporters gathered to celebrate Saturday night at the Colorado Institute of Massage Therapy in Colorado Springs.

“Our community faces a number of challenges and the holidays are an especially tough time for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking,” Jillian Likness, who is running for the state House District 18 seat, told Colorado Politics. “As I have worked with and talked with members of our community, I have seen a true need for awareness and support for our most vulnerable. This year, I invited friends, neighbors and local leaders to join me in giving back through a Christmas to benefit human trafficking and other survivors in our community rather than focusing on exchanging gifts with one another.

“As a survivor myself, I know how important love and support are in the healing, recovery and survival journey.”

Other members of the committee were Rep. Paul Lundeen and his wife, Connie; Rep. Dan Nordberg and his wife, Maura; Rep. Terri Carver; Rep Lois Landgraf; state Republican Party vice chair Sherrie Gibson; Sandra Foote; Kay Rendleman and Mr. and Mrs. Ken Norwood.

“These women, men and children will be given hope and a sense of community that will help them fight for their dignity and restore them to a place in society where they can take pride in their journeys,” Likness said. “This is an event which breaks down barriers, changes the narrative and is not a political or for-profit benefit. This is a gift from our hearts to Colorado.”


Joey BunchJoey BunchNovember 29, 201710min10550

With six weeks to go before next legislative session, seven House Republicans are calling out their chamber’s Democratic majority and Gov. John Hickenlooper to spend existing money on transportation in next year’s budget instead of waiting on voters to decide.

The group is releasing the statement Thursday morning but it was obtained early by Colorado Politics.

The request isn’t a new one. House Republicans made the same pitch last session for existing money versus asking voters for new taxes. Democrats countered that Republicans were seeking to take the money out of education and social programs already struggling to keep up with the state’s growth.

Last year, the issue hit an impasse when Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have asked voters to approve a sales tax to address the needs of roads, bridges and traffic jams. Republicans say the money already exists in a state budget that could grow by $2 billion next year.

When Hickenlooper released his budget request to the legislature this month, he asked for no additional additional money for transportation that hadn’t already been approved by lawmakers.

“We set the governor up to succeed, to knock it out of the ball park,” said Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, one of the signers of a statement. “And he dropped the ball.”

Besides Becker, the statement was endorsed by Reps. Perry Buck of Windsor, Terri Carver of Colorado Springs, Polly Lawrence of Roxborough Park, Paul Lundeen of Monument, Dan Nordberg of Colorado Springs and Yeulin Willett of Grand Junction.

House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, said the group was being ridiculous and cited last year’s bipartisan Senate Bill 267, which will provide budget money that can be leveraged for transportation projects. She called the premise of extra money in the budget “malarkey.”

Her full statement is posted below the full text of the Republicans’ statement:

We have enough to fix our roads and bridges

It should not come as a surprise to anyone that Colorado has one of the fastest growing economies and fasting growing populations in the nation. Yet, for a state surging in economic development, the state government has spent a fraction of what’s needed on the roads and bridges that service this influx of commerce and people.

For nearly a decade, transportation funding has been hyper-politicized, and the subject of a perennial blame-game between Republicans and Democrats. This begs the question: If both sides know more spending on roads and bridges is needed, why the impasse? The issue is a fundamental disagreement about how Colorado spends your tax dollars. Colorado has a constitutional mandate to balance its budget; every dollar collected must be accounted for in the annual budget. Democrats continue to look for more revenue, regardless of how much more money we get per year. Conversely, Republicans have long argued the problem is not the amount of revenue, but how it’s prioritized.
Take for example Gov. Hickenlooper’s recent budget request. Nowhere In his $30.5 billion 2018-2019 budget proposal is any general fund money allocated for roads and bridges. This is also not surprising, as none of his previous budget requests have called for general fund spending on these critical projects. It should be noted that during his administration, general fund revenue outpaced population by four to one.

It’s estimated that $300 million a year (less than 1 percent of Colorado’s current annual budget) will service a twenty-year $3.5 billion dollar bond to tackle the growing list of transportation projects and maintenance throughout the state. If Republicans were in control, the budget would start with that bond payment, followed by the next priority and so forth. Democrats however, insist Colorado’s tax payers need to pony up that additional $300 million through increased taxes, even though the budget is $1.09 billion larger than last year, and $10 billion larger than when Gov. Hickenlooper first took office.

When Republicans propose using existing resources for roads and bridges, the questions about “cuts” and “what programs will receive less funding” always seem to follow. But keep in mind, the Governor’s budget request calls for more than a dozen agencies to get an increase to their current budgets. Any reductions to those proposed increases only exist according to the Governor’s budget request. Moreover, a decrease in the amount of an increase is not a “cut.” it is responsible fiscal policy.

Fortunately, the governor’s request is just that, a request. The legislature retains the authority to set its own figures and appropriate your tax dollars. The next legislative session begins in January, and we have 120 days to iron out Colorado’s next budget. We are certain Democrats’ calls for more revenue will be loud and frequent, but consider those calls have not softened even with $12.5 billion more revenue over the last decade. Which begs a second and even more important question: how much more money do the Democrats need before they’ll start prioritizing Colorado’s most impactful infrastructure?

If it’s up to Republicans, we have enough. We can fund the infrastructure projects Colorado needs while ensuring the essential state services provided to citizens and communities are not compromised. The governor has made his case for how we should spend $30.5 billion, but we are not convinced that his request fits the needs of Colorado. All 100 state legislators need to keep their eyes on the top priority and recognize we have what we need to fix our roads and bridges.

Duran provided this response:

The idea that Democrats refuse to take action to address our roads and bridges in Colorado is absolutely ridiculous. Less than seven months ago we began to invest an additional $100 million per year that is being leveraged into nearly $2 billion for new transportation projects around the state. The bill that made this happen had strong bipartisan support. The authors of today’s letter must have very short memories.

We all want a transportation system that’s adequate to serve the needs of our growing state. And it’s true that nearly $2 billion isn’t going to solve all our transportation problems. But it’s easy to say, “Let’s spend more on roads.” Much harder to say, “Let’s spend more on roads by spending less on K-12 students, on hospitals and public safety.”

The letter-writers note that “[w]hen Republicans propose using existing resources for roads and bridges, the questions about ‘cuts’ and ‘what programs will receive less funding’ always seem to follow.”

We are still waiting for answers to those questions.

Those answers are the crux of the issue, because the notion that there are big chunks of money buried in the couch cushions of our state government is misleading malarkey. In a state where the population is both growing and aging, the demands on our state budget increase every year – simply pointing to numerical increases in the budget is disingenuous.

Our innovative transportation funding referred measure last year would have been an actual solution to this problem, and it’s disappointing that three Republicans in the Senate prevented Coloradans from deciding whether to make that investment in our transportation system.

Here’s the bottom line: we were able to make a historic investment in transportation last year, but Republican proposals to divert existing dollars will unavoidably cut funding to our schools, place even more of a debt burden on Colorado’s college students and cut services for seniors and disabled Coloradans. That’s an unacceptable solution, and it’s unfortunate that the Republicans continue to argue for it.​


Joey BunchJoey BunchJune 4, 20174min1410

The Colorado Springs Gazette recently reported that Colorado is unlikely to receive any new significant transportation funding from Washington. (“Insights: Trump’s deal on transportation is a ‘no deal’ for Colorado.”) The story concluded that federal policy is pushing Colorado toward more toll road — but I am here to say that another alternative exists.

Namely, to define spending priorities within state government and conclude roads and bridges are a priority.

Each year for the past ten years Colorado state spending has grown, on average, by more than a billion dollars per year. We’ve gone from just over $17 billion in state spending in 2007 to $28.3 billion in the budget just signed by the Governor. Yet our roads and bridges crumble and traffic routinely grinds to a congested stop on our key roadways.

Conservative legislators offered amendments to this year’s budget to shake loose some cash for roads. I myself offered two amendments, which combined would have redirected more than $315 million for roads and bridges. While it’s disappointing that both failed in the Democrat-controlled House, the point is that such a redirection of funds is not mathematically impossible.

It’s a question of priorities and the politics around choosing those priorities.

So what has been the policy choice and where does the money go? Between the 2007 budget and this year’s, the Health Care Policy and Financing Department, whose most expensive job is managing Medicaid, has grown 178% from $3.5 billion to just a tick under $10 billion. A big share of that money is federal pass-through dollars. But the state general fund money — the money generated primarily from sales and income tax, the money your state legislators have direct spending control over–grew by more than 90% ($1.3 billion) in the same time period to reach $2.8 billion in this year’s budget. Here’s the kicker: In those same 10 years, generalfund spending on transportation was limited to $331 million for all ten years.

Each year, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) uses State and Federal gas tax dollars and other fees and taxes like those you pay when you register your car mostly for road maintenance. And CDOT says they need another billion dollars a year to keep up with Colorado’s growing population.

A crisis the size and scope of the roads and bridges breakdown in Colorado deserves the attention of general fund dollars. We need to have the tough conversations inside the state, and stack up every dollar for other policy items against our transportation needs.

Colorado should welcome funding help if it comes from Washington, but not expect it. The current budget proposal in Washington would cut transportation programs and promote solutions that will translate into toll roads here in Colorado. The administration in Washington has been open to reducing regulatory burdens associated with road improvements, which would ease the cost of construction and speed its completion. This is helpful, but it’s not a solution.

The big question is this: Are roads and bridges paid for with the taxes already collected from the people of Colorado a priority or not? I say yes. Let’s have the tough conversations about the state budget. Let’s allocate the tax money that is already being redirected from the every day budgets of hard working Coloradans into taxes and pay for the roads and bridges those same Coloradans deserve.

Joey BunchJoey BunchMay 10, 20175min1381

The Colorado legislative session was supposed to be all about funding transportation, but lawmakers spoke more about inroads and progress Wednesday as they adjourned the 120-day General Assembly.

Roads got a fraction of what lawmakers said they hoped to raise in January. Two bills would have allowed voters to decide on raising billions of dollars for projects such as unclogging traffic on interstates 25 and 70. Both died in the Republican-led Senate. Both had strong Republican support, but not enough.

The bills would have raised about $700 million annually, but the deal-breaker proved to be whether taxpayers should be asked to put more than they already do in the state’s $26.8 billion budget. Instead lawmakers reclassified a fee on hospital beds that will raise about $100 million a year. That money, however, would be allocated annually, and Colorado lawmakers have a history of neglecting transportation promises.

“I think we could have done better,” said Rep. Kimmi Lewis, R-Kim, lamenting money spent elsewhere in the budget that could have supported transportation and rural hospitals.

The freshman legislator said that next year she would be more aggressive against spending increases. Lewis supported the omnibus Senate Bill 267 because her district has five rural hospitals, and the bill includes $528 million to stave off cuts to hospitals across the state.

“I’m going to vote for it today, and that kills me,” Lewis said.

Lawmakers tinkered with hundreds of other bills, including a long-sought informed-consent law that applies before homeowners associations can sue builders for construction defects. None were as bright or bold as the failed transportation bills, however.

Charter school funding turned out to be a winner on the last day of the session when the legislature agreed on sharing future property tax increases equally with charter schools. After years of gridlock in the Capitol, charter school advocates called House Bill 1375 a breakthrough.

“Slowly but surely, based on what we’ve done with a couple of key education votes, we’ re changing our paradigm about how education and learning opportunities for children should be defined and delivered,” said Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument. “That’s a huge win, because that can transform students’ lives, than can transform how we deliver education, so we can bring education kicking and shouting into the 21st century.”

Lundeen hopes to maintain momentum on the subject with the bipartisan bill he sponsored. House Bill 1340 created a 10-member legislative committee to study school finance.

“We’re going to look at and define what it means to fund every student in Colorado with the respect that individual student deserves,” Lundeen said.

Senate Education Committee chairman Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, co-sponsored both bills along with other efforts to benefit charter schools this session.

“My priority is to always seek out new ways in which we can shift the focus on education in Colorado from a discussion about systems and institutions to one that emphasizes each students’ individual needs, goals and dreams,” Hill said.

Rep. Tony Exum Sr., D-Colorado Springs, said he was disappointed lawmakers can’t do more to address traffic north of Monument, but he was happy with his big legislative win to provide firefighters with a voluntary cancer fund they could pay into.

A career firefighter, Exum said he knew colleagues who died from complications of cancer waiting on insurers, who demand elaborate proof that the illness is work-related.

“We are out there putting our lives on the line trying to protect communities,” he said of the carcinogens fire crews face in burning buildings. “This is a byproduct of that. It’s a voluntary program to try to get some funds, because firefighters have died waiting on worker;s comp.”