In their first meeting as a caucus, Colorado’s incoming Senate Democrats found themselves with a problem: The largest Senate committee room didn’t have enough space on the dais for all their members.
Democrats in the state House of Representatives would face the same issue hours later Thursday. Instead of a predicted red wave lapping at the edges of Democrats’ control of Colorado’s government, last week’s election reinforced the party’s standing and positioned it to hold a “generational” majority, as Senate President Steve Fenberg termed it.
“It’s pretty cool for Democrats that the biggest problem is that there’s not enough chairs in the biggest committee room in the building,” outgoing Speaker Alec Garnett said.
But these new Democratic majorities arrive at a tenuous economic moment, with a tighter budget and familiar cost-of-living and affordability issues. Democratic officials have spent the last several months focusing on defending the gains made over the past decade. Now they have to decide how to use them.
Democrats see larger majorities, tighter budget
As they elected their Senate and House leaders Thursday, Democrats frequently invoked a metaphor of family: They can be big, they can love each other, and they can fight on occasion — without it ripping the family apart.
“I grew up in a family of nine children, and we had one bathroom,” state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, the chair of the powerful Joint Budget Committee, said. “So, while we all loved each other very much, things can get tense. And I would say that’s probably the future we’re looking at.”
The budget appears to be an immediate pressure point for a caucus eager to make good on campaign pledges. Gov. Jared Polis warned in early November that it might not be a flush year for new programs, especially as inflation eats away at spending power and economists warn of a possible recession.
“This is back to a kind of normal Colorado,” Polis said while presenting his budget proposal to lawmakers on Tuesday. “There’s not a lot of money pending for new programs. Yes, we can fund education strongly, but we want to sustain it. It’s going to be a challenge to do that.”
Newly elected House Speaker Julie McCluskie said there were still plenty of meaty issues for legislators to tackle, from housing affordability to the cost of living, but lawmakers are “heading into a very different fiscal environment from what we’ve seen the last couple of years,” when pandemic-era federal money flooded the …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – News