There’s a concerted effort in the works to shake up the nature of Colorado’s state government. Recall petitions are being circulated against State Sens. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs, Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood and Sen. President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo, as well as against State Rep. Bri Buentello of Pueblo and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis — among others.
All of the above are Democrats, and the recall efforts are the result of some decidedly progressive legislation proposed, passed and signed this year.
And while circulating recall petitions is certainly a protected right under Colorado election law, we worry that process could destabilize both the government and the business climate while ringing up a costly, frivolous bill for the taxpayers.
Admittedly there are times when recall is necessary — when an elected official displays extreme moral turpitude or is caught with a hand in the cookie jar, for example. But when it is used as a punitive measure against lawmakers whose vote is a reflection of their constituents’ views or their own, but that decision doesn’t jibe with the petitioner’s personal opinions, it becomes a problem.
Recall elections come with a massive price tag, and not just in terms of dollars and cents.
It’s difficult to pinpoint how much a special election — the process required under Colorado Secretary of State rules — costs on a statewide level. However, in Colorado Springs alone as recently as April, the cost of a citywide special election was estimated at a half-million dollars. It stands to reason the cost of recalling a statewide official like the governor would be exponentially higher.
And that’s an untenable investment to ask of taxpayers, especially when you consider that special elections historically have low voter turnout.
Recall costs aside, the process is also disruptive to good governance. When lawmakers must constantly step lightly in order to avoid losing their jobs, what chance do they have to draft thoughtful or change-making legislation? How can we expect any level of productivity? And where does that get us, the constituents who are footing their $30,000- to $40,242-per-year salary?
When a governor runs the risk of recall simply for signing legislation that was written, highly debated, revised and passed with the majority blessing of the 100-member Legislature, how can we expect effective leadership? What can we expect to get in exchange for that $123,193 annual income?
When the recall process is abused — the way it’s being abused right now — governance takes a backseat to the flurry of petitions, political posturing and angry threats. It’s difficult to craft thoughtful policy when lawmakers must constantly campaign to keep their seat in the Capitol.
That can have a tremendous impact on the business community. It goes without saying that governmental stability — or instability, as the case may be — plays a significant role in corporate decisions.
State-level politics play a major role in tax policies, employment and discrimination laws, and education funding, among others. All of which is taken into consideration when a business or organization is deciding whether it should set up shop here in Colorado. Political uncertainty is also bad for business.
Government power is cyclical, and Colorado’s political pendulum swings from right to left and back again. When the right eventually returns to power, will the progressive left work to recall all conservative legislators and leaders with whom they disagree? Time will tell.
For the time being, though, it’s far better to rein in the recalls and stop the silliness now, for the sake of good governance, for our business climate and for our state’s future.