DA Mark Hurlbert, a Republican candidate for Colorado state Senate District 16, has gone over 90 days without posting an “Issues” section on his website or saying much of anything specific on the issues. His budget record and lack of fiscal transparency as DA, however, help build the case further that he is no fiscal conservative. So do the few statements he’s made and his endorsement of a liberal Democrat who wants to raise taxes.
Hurlbert is competing against conservative/libertarian businessman, Tim Leonard of Evergreen, for the Republican nomination. The winner will challenge Democrat Gilpin County Commissioner, Jeanne Nicholson, who is running without a Democrat primary opponent. Leonard and Hurlbert will square off at the State Assembly in Loveland on May 21, and only candidates gaining at least 30 percent of the delegate votes will make the primary ballot in August. Fortunately for Republican delegates and voters, they face a clear choice between the two candidates.
A recent investigation shows Hurlbert has raised his budgets during the recession, and he has now endorsed a Democrat candidate for Breckenridge Town Council, Ben Brewer, who wants to impose a lift ticket tax. Why increase taxes in the middle of this unprecedented recession? In typical liberal logic, Brewer claims the tax would “create jobs.” With ski trips becoming an unaffordable luxury for many families, skier visits are down and Econ 101 suggests that increasing the prices of lift tickets would only make Summit County’s struggling economy worse, not better.
Update: Brewer was also endorsed by liberal House Dist. 56 representaive, Christine Scanlan. Hurlbert also teamed up with Scanlan on the “Row v. Wade” rafting bill that was shipped off by the Senate judiciary committee for “study.” Brewer lost the Breckenridge Town Council race to an experienced businessmen. Even in liberal Breck, it looks like the Dem tax and spend philosophy is a non-starter in 2010.
Hurlbert previously touted the endorsement of the most liberal Republican in the senate, term-limited in 2014 Al White. That got scrubbed quickly off the Facebook page and hasn’t been mentioned since, though it and other aspects of Hurlbert’s career and campaign are mocked in this popular Hitler YouTube video, featured in the Denver Post. (I downloaded the current Facebook page for safekeeping).
As Hurlbert told the Summit Daily when he announced his candidacy, he is “a firm believer in the ability of government to work to the benefit of the public…” And Hurlbert’s put (taxpayer) money where his mouth is on that one. In his seven years as DA he has never cut spending, he’s increased it. From 2007-2010, for example, oblivious to the recession, Hurlbert increased his budgets every year, or tried to. Hurlbert’s own salary increased 10 percent in 2010, raising his salary to $110,000 plus a 13% PERA pension contribution, and other benefits.
In 2009 his budget enhancement efforts were thwarted in Summit County and Clear Creek, but he did get a double increase to make up for it in 2010 in Summit, after a property tax increase passed in 2008 kicked in. Clear Creek apparently really made it up to him, by increasing his 2010 budget compared to 2009 by a whopping 67 percent.
Here’s the link to Summit, and here’s the link to Clear Creek, (For reader reference, the 2007 Summit budget figure was $822,790, and was provided to me by Summit County Finance Director, Marty Ferris, as was the explanation for the 2009 and 2010 budgets. The DA budgets for both counties are roughly on Acrobat page 25).
Is this because crime went up? Absolutely not. As residents moved out of the expensive mountain communities, fewer visitors arrived, and more people stayed home to do their drinking, case filings went down significantly. This fact is based on records I obtained from the court clerks in Summit and Clear Creek counties–the two counties in the Fifth Judicial District that also make up part of Senate District 16.
In Summit, the excuse provided for the budget increases was “improved administration, law enforcement relations and programs.” In addition, “salary adjustments” (that would mean pay increases) were also handed out by Hurlbert, even though the recession has hit the lawyer market especially hard and they come real cheap these days.
I’m still busy crunching numbers and making open records act requests, but the overall case filings are down at least 20 percent during this three-year period. When I have harder numbers, I’ll be publishing detailed results, including posting Hurlbert’s complete budgets online, something he has failed to do even when prodded. He’s made it cumbersome to get his budgets, giving three separate and contradictory versions of what hoops needed to be jumped through to obtain them. No other DA in Colorado has done this. Still, I hope to get the information soon to post online for the public.