Denver Direct: Romanoff Surfaces

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Romanoff Surfaces

by Dave Felice

Romanoff spoke at a meeting of Democrats in Rep. Ann McGihon’s District Three in south-central Denver, Saturday, Feb 21, 2009.

Romanoff had to leave the legislature because of term limits. He was a strong contender for the appointment to the U.S. Senate for the seat vacated by Sen. Ken Salazar. Since Denver School Superintendent Michael Bennet got that appointment, Romanoff has yet to reveal any future plans for his involvement in government.

Former house speaker Andrew Romanoff said Democrats need to “remain humble but hungry,” now that they have majorities at both the state and federal levels.

Romanoff, a Denver Democrat, said history is being rewritten by the electoral gains of the Democratic Party in legislative power, especially in the state general assembly.

“Republicans don’t like being in the minority,” he commented. “And the Republicans will do anything and say anything to try to regain power. But their actions in the General Assembly have indicated they are not really interested in governing.”

Romanoff tempered his comments by adding that legislation coming from the Colorado legislature is generally much more bipartisan than it appears. He said while the Republicans controlled the legislature, the Democrats found that it was easy to get media coverage “by criticizing the other side.” But he said Democrats realized they needed to offer ideas and solutions and that is the successful approach that helped get Democrats elected.

When they gained the majority in the legislature, Romanoff acknowledged Democrats had to face some critical financial realities, because the previous administration had gutted social programs, health care, schools, and infrastructure. In spite of these pressing matters, he said, Republicans were obsessed with the issue of so-called gay marriage.

“We now have a chance to dream a little bit,” said Romanoff. After getting some relief on immediate funding restrictions, Romanoff said “we now have an opportunity to remake some institutions and think of new ways of doing business.”

He pointed out that Colorado is “one of the richest states,” but needs to pay more attention to rebuilding programs aimed at social well-being.

Romanoff said TABOR restrictions on taxes and funding are a principal cause of the state’s financial difficulties. He is still supporting a suggested state constitutional convention even if the convention would deal only with fiscal matters.

“Just using all of the state revenue is not a panacea for current financial difficulties,” he said. “There just isn’t enough money to go around to pay for everything.”

The former house speaker said increasing the automobile registration fees is one way of raising revenue without raising taxes. He points out there’s a distinction between taxes and fees, because fees can be earmarked for specific purpose, while taxes must go to the general fund. He admits the gasoline tax is a hybrid, because that tax revenue supports road projects.