Colorado state agencies, with a few exceptions, are not allowed to have their own rainy day funds to help them weather financial downturns. It’s the job of state lawmakers to make the tough decisions about where cuts will be made and how state savings funds will be used to spare some departments from those trims.
So we were disappointed to learn that the Colorado governor’s office, under the direction of former Gov. John Hickenlooper and possibly under his predecessors, set itself above lawmakers’ budgeting process.
Denver Post reporter Justin Wingerter uncovered a fund of federal dollars, almost 16 years old, that Hickenlooper used to stave off cuts to his office over the 8 years he made budget recommendations to lawmakers. Records show he also used the money to cover expenses that probably would have raised a few eyebrows at the Joint Budget Committee in lean fiscal years.
Hickenlooper took office with about $10 million remaining in the fund and immediately spent $6 million of it in 2012 when Colorado’s economy was still trying to recover from the Great Recession.
Over the next several years Hickenlooper’s office slowed the spending out of the fund to a trickle, however.
We don’t think it’s appropriate for a governor to use federal money in this way. It would be wise for lawmakers to audit this fund, not only to look back at how it was used, but to learn how to shut down similar funds that may exist throughout the state government.
[via the Denver Post]