As Colorado families, businesses and schools struggle to make ends meet, Senate President John Morse celebrates making life a bit harder for them. His quest to raise utility bills came to fruition on June 5th when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 252, siding with a politician so out of step that petitioners recently turned in more than twice the signatures needed for a recall election to boot him from office.
“Senate President John Morse initiated the urban attack on rural Colorado when he sponsored SB 13-252. With his signature, Governor Hickenlooper joins Morse in perhaps the largest unfunded government mandate in Colorado history,” said Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs. “All government entities – municipalities, school districts, fire departments – will now face unnecessary rate increases.”
Not to mention the burden this law will have on senior citizens trying to live on Social Security.
“Senate Bill 252 will directly impact people on fixed incomes in rural areas who are just barely hanging on in this economy,” said Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction. “I am very disappointed that Governor Hickenlooper would sign yet another measure that only gained bipartisan opposition and puts seniors at risk.”
Morse’s jobs-killing bill is so potentially damaging that even Democrat-friendly unions – including six chapters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – opposed it. Some other opponents include: Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry; National Federation of Independent Business; Colorado Concern; Colorado Mining Association; Rocky Mountain Agribusiness Association; Colorado Corn Growers Association; Colorado Telecommunications Association; Colorado Farm Bureau; Colorado Cattlemen Association; Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado; Progressive 15; Metro North Chamber of Commerce; Colorado Hospital Association; Economic Development Council of Colorado; to name a few.
Almost any organization dedicated to jobs and a healthy economy opposed the bill because it takes money from the pockets of consumers and channels it to special interests in the business of renewable energy sources that have not advanced enough to stand on their own. Every dollar taken to pay for this is money Coloradans cannot spend on food, clothing, shelter, education, transportation and other assorted goods and services that benefit our economy and improve our quality of life. It is money businesses cannot use to hire new employees. It is redistribution from individual Coloradan’s to a special interest favored by Morse.
We are disappointed and surprised that Hickenlooper – a man who understands business and fundamental economic principles – would sign such a counterproductive bill. To Hickenlooper’s credit, he signed it with reservations so serious that he also issued an executive order that creates an advisory committee to examine the law for problems and potential improvements.
“The reasons for signing the legislation outweigh the reasons for vetoing the bill, but this bill is imperfect,” Hickenlooper’s order says. “Some of the concerns raised during the legislative process were not given due consideration. Top among these concerns are the feasibility of the implementation timetable and consumer protections. The advisory committee will work to fully address these concerns, culminating in proposals for the 2014 legislative session.”
The executive order directs the Colorado Energy Office “to identify ways we can support farmers and ranchers in reducing their utility costs.”
It continues: “The ideal way to improve this bill is through the legislative process rather than a veto and starting over.”
Ideally, the governor would have vetoed this bill out of compassion for the ratepayers it will harm. Renewable energy poses great promise. But these innovations should ease into Colorado markets as technology improves to they genuinely benefit Colorado households, businesses, farms, ranches and schools. We don’t need Sen. Morse to force them upon us in a ploy to benefit his friends.
Wayne Laugesen is editorial page editor at the Colorado Springs Gazette, where a version of this op-ed first appeared.