Steamboat Springs State Sen. Al White was matter of fact Friday about the new makeup of the Joint Budget Committee at the General Assembly in Denver.
“I don’t think it’s going to make that much difference,” he said. “The budget tends to be a political football, and it’s easy for the party out of power to throw hand grenades at the party in power … but the truth is, there aren’t that many options.”
White, a Hayden Republican, essentially was ousted from the powerful House-Senate committee by his own party after serving on it for four years. He said one negative impact for Northwest Colorado residents would be the lack of Western Slope representation on the committee.
“I was able to accomplish a fair amount for our constituents,” White said.
He cited as key accomplishments a push to keep the Rifle Correctional Center open; allocating millions for the Colorado Northwestern Community College campus in Craig from the state’s capital development budget; and making sure on multiple occasions that the JBC didn’t take money from state brand inspecting boards to supplement the general fund.
White was replaced on the committee by Sen.-elect Kent Lambert, a Colorado Springs Republican. Lambert served a year on the committee as a House member.
The change signifies a shift to the political right from White’s typically more moderate vote. Lambert was one of only four House Republicans who did not sign a letter opposing Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, three tax-slashing measures trounced by voters Tuesday, Tim Hoover, of The Denver Post reported.
Lambert told the Post that “the climate is going to be very interesting because now we do have a split legislature. Neither party will be able to ram things through.”
The Post article also noted that White opted not to seek another term after realizing he didn’t have the votes in his caucus to get re-elected.
On the House side, Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, and Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, will serve on the six-person committee with newly elected Republican Rep. Jon Becker. White expressed concern about the level of experience.
“At the end of last year, we had 22 years of aggregate Joint Budget Committee experience among the six members who served,” White said. “This year, they will have three.”
Ferrandino has served two years on the committee, White said, along with Lambert’s one year. Gerou was appointed this year and attended her first meeting in September, White said. The other senators on the committee are Democrats Mary Hodge and Pat Steadman.
White called the choice to appoint brand-new Becker to the committee “interesting.”
“Once you come into the legislature, it’s a pretty steep learning curve just to understand the legislative process, but to tackle that learning curve with the added complications of learning and understanding the budget, it’s going to be hugely complicated,” White said.
He also was skeptical that Republicans would be able to dramatically slash the Colorado budget.
Outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter unveiled a $19.1 billion budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year this week.
“Republicans are talking about broader, deeper cuts, and the only place you’re going to do that is K-12 and higher education,” White said, “and I don’t think that’s going to be politically palatable.”
White will serve on three other committees: agriculture, livestock and natural resources; business, labor and technology; and appropriations. He said he has experience on all of those committees.