Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler doesn’t mind being called a honey badger by his political opponents — in fact, he seems to have taken a liking to the nickname — but he draws the line at being called a pig.
Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman quipped during a meeting of the Joint Budget Committee that “when you wrestle with a pig, you get dirty,” referring to why he didn’t want to invite Gessler to the committee to answer questions about his office’s budget.
Gessler, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, has been in a battle with the JBC over his budget, which Gessler said was strained by an election reform bill Democrats passed last year over his office’s objections. The bill caused his office to deplete all of its reserve funds and then some.
“Had we not had [House Bill] 1303, our budget would be in exceptionally good shape, he told the committee in December. “We’d be just fine. 1303 has been a budget-buster. It has completely blown our budget out of the water.”
Gessler wasn’t present this week when the JBC heard a budget presentation from his staff. Steadman made his comment when another member asked whether Gessler should be invited to answer questions directly, according to an account of the meeting in the Denver Post.
Gessler responded to the slight with a news release, saying Democrats had “descended into petty insults.”
He also responded to Democrats’ suggestion that Gessler should raise fees on small businesses to make up the shortfall in his budget.
“As Colorado small businesses claw their way out of this recession, the Democrats’ answer is to raise fees to pay for their partisan election bill and pet projects,” Gessler said in the news release. “My office submitted a fiscally responsible budget that meets the spending obligations of the legislature without raising fees on our businesses and non-profits.
“Democrats rejected the non-partisan staff’s recommendation and instead chose to insult Gessler,” the news release continues.
Steadman told the Denver Post that state statutes require the Secretary of State’s office be funded through fees and said that he asked whether the state would have to sue Gessler to get him to raise fees to bolster his budget.
He also said Gessler is loath to raise fees while he’s running for governor.
“I would be more than happy to explain how our reduced fees have benefitted Colorado businesses and charities while keeping our fees the lowest in the country,” Gessler said in his statement. “It’s a sad state of affairs when our majority party is insulting individuals, broadcasting those insults and denying any chance of responding.”
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