Thursday, April 16, 2009

Roar of the crowd saves Pinnacol money

Gov. Bill Ritter must have been listening to the crowd of anti-tax demonstrators outside his window when he pulled his administration away from taking the $500 million of Pinnacol Assurance surplus assets on the negotiating table for the state budget.

Ritter made clear that he doesn't want the state's institutions of higher education to suffer $300 million in cuts proposed by the Joint Budget Committee, but he ducked under the desk, as it were, when it came to taking the money from an employer favorite, Pinnacol.

It will be interesting to see if the governor will sign a bill that remains that would make clear Colorado state government controls Pinnacol surplus money, if indeed that law is passed by the legislature.

But in the meantime there are those anti-tax folks who were outside his window.

Democrats, progressives and liberals ought to take note of the crowd, which was estimated at more than 5,000 outside the Capitol. The Denver Post, the only major newspaper in town anymore, said the anti-tax "tea party" was one of a dozen held throughout Colorado and 750 reportedly held throughout the country. That kind of turnout cannot be ignored by incumbent politicians, even if their incumbency is as "young" as the Obama administration's.

What the rallies showed is conservatives -- from the now less-influential Christian right and Moral Majority, to the blathering talk show hosts who can still whip up a frenzy -- still hold power over some people, and the millions of voters who cast ballots for John McCain didn't lose their voices or their ability to make placards with Obama's election.

It was fun to read the Post's quote of demonstrator Bertha Holland from the rally. "It's pretty sad that I've lived 65 years and never had a reason before to protest something," Holland told the Post. But what is sad is that Holland never had the guts during 65 years of life to oppose her government on an issue before Wednesday.

Ritter is right to heed the demonstrators, and put the budget-balancing act on the backs of doctors and other less powerful special interests, like state employees, who are going to lose money in the budget deal no matter how it falls. He'd be wrong if he raises fees paid by the general public to the point they create their own opposition to his politics.

But balance is a critical skill for a politician.

Balancing on a razor's edge is dangerous, but always entertaining folly.

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