Not long ago, Colorado was one of the safest, most prosperous states in the nation.
Today, Colorado is a mess. Crime is soaring. The economy is faltering. Energy prices are rising. Schools are struggling.
Many of today's problems are the predictable result of "progressive" policies adopted during the four-year reign of Gov. Jared Polis and large Democrat majorities in the legislature.
In the next few months, Colorado voters must decide if they've had enough.
Democrats pursued legislation that was tough on law enforcement and soft on criminals. They passed bills to make it easier to sue police officers but harder to keep violent criminals behind bars.
Not surprisingly, Colorado suffered the fourth-highest crime increase in the country. From 2018 to 2021, murders soared by 75% from 237 to 414. More homicides were committed in Colorado in 2021 than during the infamous "summer of violence" in 1993, both in raw numbers and per capita.
In those same three years, motor vehicle theft nearly doubled to 41,719 - more than 100 per day - in 2021.
"Colorado, historically, has been a remarkably safe state, well below the national averages . . . We can't say that any more," Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen told Colorado Public Radio. He dismissed assertions that the COVID pandemic was responsible for the crime wave.
In a bipartisan report, former district attorneys Mitch Morrisey, a Democrat from Denver, and George Brauchler, a Republican from Douglas County, described an "undeniable and blistering increase in crime."
That report from Common Sense Institute connects the increase in crime to "social justice" legislation passed during the last four years, leading to:
- Declining prison population (down 23% since 2008).
- Increasing use of personal recognizance bonds even in violent crime cases.
- Decriminalizing possession of four grams or less of Schedule II controlled substances, such as fentanyl, from a felony to a misdemeanor.
An investigation by Denver's CBS4 found repeat felons and others charged with violent felonies received cash-free bonds or probation.
Simultaneously, Democrats' war on affordable energy are making it more expensive to cool and heat our homes and to drive our vehicles. Meanwhile, they drive energy-producing jobs out of state.
"Coloradans face steep increases in energy bills this winter, with some (paying) as much as 50% more compared to last winter," reported Colorado Politics which specifically noted "actions by state regulators and policymakers" driving up energy bills.
After Colorado voters said "no" to draconian restrictions on oil and gas production, Polis and Democrat lawmakers defied voters by passing Senate Bill 181 which brought drastic reductions in drilling permits and a major employment contraction in the energy industry.
Prior to SB 181, Colorado issued 30 or more location drilling permits every month which allowed energy producers to develop long-term plans. However, just five permits were issued in all of 2021 and only 22 so far this year. Colorado has lost 3,400 energy sector jobs since 2020.
While Polis uses deceptive taxpayer refund checks in a shameful scheme to buy votes, gas prices could soon jump by another 51 cents a gallon because Polis asked the federal EPA to enact more severe ozone standards in Colorado.
Just this week, election-year Polis began to backpedal. Voters should remember that in his last election, he also claimed to oppose draconian oil and gas regulations but imposed them anyway after the election.
Likewise, the Governor and legislature show little regard for agriculture, Colorado's second-largest industry which is responsible for producing safe, clean meat, grains, fruits and vegetables to feed the state's growing population.
"It's as if the governor pays lip service to agriculture one day and then slaps it in the face the next," editorialized the Sterling Journal-Advocate.
The problem with progressive lawmakers is that they "know" so much based on so little real-world experience. The current crop of progressive legislators is remarkably young and sorely lacking in experience outside government or politics.
So, Colorado voters now must choose: Continue to elect progressive Democrats and expect more of the same or give Republicans a chance to show whether they can return sanity to our state.
Mark Hillman served as Senate Majority Leader and State Treasurer. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.