“Kill the bill.”
Displaying an an extraordinary amount of arrogance and disrespect for taxpayers Glenn Gustafson, CFO of School District 11 in Colorado Springs, implied that people don’t care about how school districts spend money so therefore he (and other districts) shouldn’t be bothered with transparency.
Gustafson made the statements when testifying against SB09-57 the School District Financial Transparency Act in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, January 28, in what turned out to be a much longer than anticipated hearing on the transparency legislation.
Problem is that the oblivious CFO waltzed in at the end of two hours of testimony — not having heard a thing that had been said earlier — and addressed a committee room packed with transparency supporters. Eighteen Colorado residents, taxpayers, citizens took time out of their day to testify in favor of transparency. More came to lend moral support. The ratio of supporters to opponents 6 to 1. Imagine what the ratio would be if taxpayers actually cared about transparency!
Tom Stone drove all the way from Eagle County. Scott Helman made the hour-plus trip from Weld County. Terrance Mangen used a vacation day just to make his voice heard. The Colorado Press Association lent its support. One of the best visuals came from Tom Kellor who brought just one box of papers he received from a CORA request.
Interestingly enough, one of Kellor’s CORA requests was sent to District 11. Gustafson also testified that taxpayers can get information with a simple CORA request. Another problem with that bit of testimony — after the hearing, Kellor reminded Gustafson about his obstructionist tactics when Kellor submitted a CORA request to District 11. Guess those CORA requests aren’t so simple after all.
Gustafson also said that his district and some others put their budgets online. And for that we should be thankful? In the words of my friend and colleague Ben DeGrow, a budget is merely a “promise” of where money is going to be spent. It does not tell us where the money goes.
Senate Education Committee member and former State Board of Education member Evie Hudak could not mask her hostility towards the legislation and its supporters. She parroted the warn out arguments against transparency for school districts including cost, lack of local control and possible privacy violations. COST has addressed the cost issue before and was glad to see that many citizens were able to do so today. And Colorado Spending Transparency Project Director Amy Oliver testified that transparency only includes information that is already a matter of public record — so Hudak has nothing to worry about there.
Funny, Hudak didn’t seem to mind being a big spender while on the State Board of Education. Also, she didn’t mind dictating to individual school districts that their high schools could no longer sell diet soda to students. And she has had her own issues with divulging confidential information. This might be a “do as I say not as I do” type of thing.
Hudak didn’t even bother to listen to much of supporters’ testimony. After grilling Senate sponsor Ted Harvey and enjoying opposition testimony from two lobbyists, she exited the committee room shortly after transparency supporters began to tesify. She was gone for more than 30 minutes during which time supporters urged committee members to pass the bill on to the full senate. When Hudak did bother to come back, she paid more attention to messages on her cell phone than to what was being said by supporters.
Hudak finally became interested again in the testimony when Gustafson began his comments.
Sources tell COST that opponents were “shocked” at the number of supporters and that the committee might have to actually pass the bill out of committee…but probably not without a bunch of amendments that will be designed to waterdown transparency.
The committee will hear amendments on Thursday, January 29, at 1:45 p.m. in SCR 354.
COST believes it will be very difficult for the Senate Education Committee to ignore the articulate comments from so many dedicated Colorado citizens. If the committee fails to pass the School District Spending Transparency legislation on to the full Senate, then it proves that two lobbyists and a bureaucrat have more power and influence than a roomful of taxpayers and citizens.
Then voters can show legislators how much power and influence they have during the next campaign cycle.
Remember: No taxation without information!