Minority leverage | SteamboatToday.com

Minority leverage

White one of two Republicans to manage state budget

Mike Lawrence

— Being a member of the minority party at the Capitol could be a blessing in disguise, state Rep. Al White of Winter Park said.

White, a Republican, is a six-year state legislator representing House District 57, which includes Routt County. He has begun his most prominent political service to date, as one of six legislators serving on the state’s Joint Budget Committee. The committee, commonly called the JBC, oversees state finances and budgeting by reviewing state departments and agencies, deciding whether to allow spending proposed by the Legislature, and determining how to allocate the state budget, which in 2006-07 includes a $6.8 billion general fund.

White’s appointment to the powerful committee comes at a time when Democrats have not only expanded their majorities in the state House and Senate, but also have won the governorship with the election of Democrat Bill Ritter on Nov. 7.

But White said serving on the JBC as a member of a minority party could have its advantages.

“The protocol on the JBC requires the vote of at least one minority member in order to adopt a position,” White said. “There are only two minority members, which gives me a fair amount of leverage. From my personal standpoint, I think I’m in the best position I can be in given the minority we have. I believe I can exert more leverage and better serve the citizens of my district from the position I’m in than from anywhere else in the House.”

The other Republican JBC member is state Sen. Steve Johnson of Fort Collins.

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“Our politics are very similar,” White said of Johnson. “I think the JBC will be pretty moderate.”

White said he is not yet sure if his role on the JBC will be as a GOP “goaltender” blocking Democratic spending proposals.

“I don’t know that I’ll be playing goalie or not, to tell you the truth,” White said. “I’ll look at each issue individually. Sometimes good public policy can get set aside over partisan squabbles.”

Democratic state Sen. Abel Tapia of Pueblo is the new JBC chairman, replacing Democratic state Rep. Bernie Beuscher of Grand Junction.

White said the JBC already is meeting in Denver “pretty much Monday through Friday,” to review the spending of state departments and look ahead to the 2007-08 state budget.

The state’s 2006-07 budget year ends June 30.

White said the proposed budget for 2007-08 is currently $20 million “out of balance,” largely due to proposed increases in spending for the state court system.

In addition to the JBC, White will also serve on the House Appropriations Committee, which deals with spending proposals. State Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, will serve on two Senate committees: Business Affairs, Labor and Technology; and Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy.

The 2007 session of the state Legislature begins Jan. 11.