Post's Clausing dubiously attacked viability of Ritter's agenda, repeating GOP talking points about him


A news article by Denver Post Capitol Bureau chief Jeri Clausing dubiously called into question Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter's "credibility" and the "reality" of his carrying out his Colorado Promise agenda based on two "issues" she selected. The article echoed an earlier opinion column in which she repeated talking points of Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams.

In a March 8 news article, Denver Post Capitol Bureau chief Jeri Clausing asserted that Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter's positions on two "key issues" had "rais[ed] questions of credibility and the reality of carrying out his sweeping Colorado Promise" agenda of priority issues for state government. In fact, neither issue that Clausing targeted was an element of Ritter's Colorado Promise, and one of the "issue[s]" was a "proposal" that Ritter's spokesman said was made to start a "conversation" about a possible funding source for education.

Clausing's news article echoed her February 11 opinion column by highlighting a talking point of Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams. Elected chairman on March 3, Wadhams has tried through the media to pin the label "Both Ways Bill" on Ritter following the governor's veto of an organized labor bill that Ritter during the campaign had indicated he would support. In the February 11 column, Clausing asserted that Ritter "earned himself the 'both ways' label." However, despite contending in the March 8 article that the labor bill veto and another "key issue[]" she selected raised doubts about Ritter's ability to carry out the Colorado Promise, Clausing provided no comments from the governor or majority Democratic legislative leadership about whether they believed that to be the case.

The article reported that Ritter's "press secretary points to a two-page list of accomplishments by Ritter since his inauguration -- from renewable energy promotion to creation of a panel to study highway funding and implementation of two key programs for saving the state and uninsured Coloradans money on prescription drugs." But Clausing did not note that those accomplishments all were specific points of the top-priority issues outlined in the Colorado Promise. Instead, after noting the accomplishments she shifted the article's focus back to "concern[s]" raised by the lead source she quoted, Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis, whom she did not identify as a Republican.

According to the article, "Critics say acts don't fit Bill: Ritter failing 2 promises?":

In just two months in office, Gov. Bill Ritter has emerged on the opposite side of candidate Bill Ritter on two key issues, raising questions of credibility and the reality of carrying out his sweeping Colorado Promise.

First came his February veto of a controversial union bill that during his campaign he had promised to sign.

Then the governor announced he is eyeing to draw from an expected increase in federal mineral lease money to shore up the state's failing education fund -- a proposal in direct contrast, Western Slope leaders say, to candidate Ritter.

"I really don't know what the governor's true plan is," said Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis. "I don't want to condemn him before I see it. But he did make some very specific and very on-the-record promises that he would give priority to energy-impacted areas for severance tax and federal mineral lease moneys."

The "controversial union bill" to which Clausing referred was House Bill 1072, which proposed revising the Colorado Labor Peace Act to strike provisions regarding procedures under which workers preparing to negotiate a union contract can obtain necessary authority to make the contract an all-union agreement. The bill passed the House on January 22 and passed the Senate on February 5. But Ritter, who during the campaign indicated he supported the bill, vetoed it on February 9, criticizing the bill's legislative backers and their opponents for creating a debate he called "cynical politics." Although it is true Ritter had supported the bill, the Colorado Promise makes no mention of the proposal either specifically or by implication in listing Ritter's priorities for business and the state's work force.

Regarding her second targeted issue, Clausing quoted Meis, who supported Ritter's opponent in the 2006 election, former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-Arvada). Meis stated that Ritter "did make some very specific and very on-the-record promises that he would give priority to energy-impacted areas for severance tax and federal mineral lease moneys," an assertion supported in the article by Jim Evans, former executive director of the Associated Governments of Northern Colorado. Clausing added:

Just a few months later, however, Ritter the governor floated a plan to cap the amount of fast-growing federal mineral lease revenues flowing to areas of high energy development and take 75 percent of the rest of the hundreds of millions of expected new dollars for education.

The perceived flip-flop comes as labor and legislative leaders are still stinging from Ritter's veto of one of the first bills sent to his desk -- a proposal to eliminate one of two votes needed to create all-union shops under the Labor Peace Act.

But while Ritter might have made such a pledge, the Colorado Promise does not state or suggest a commitment to devote all energy lease money to energy-impact areas. Moreover, Clausing noted near the end of the article that Ritter has not definitively declared his intention to redirect the mineral lease subsidies, but is "merely looking at the possibility of using the money" to help secure the future of the state's struggling public education fund:

Ritter's press secretary, Evan Dreyer, said the proposal to tap into federal lease moneys is just that -- a proposal, and one that Ritter is discussing with interested parties.

"We are having a conversation," he said.

Still, Western Slope leaders are skeptical.

"I don't know where it's all going," Evans said. "It's one of those things where when you are on a campaign, you tell the audience what they want to hear. Then when reality sets in, it's a different story. Sad but true."

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