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TRUTH TEST examines Jane Norton ad

5:15 PM, Mar 15, 2010   |    comments
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The other candidates are in alphabetical order: Steve Barton, Ken Buck, Cleve Tidwell and Tom Wiens. Norton's campaign is spending $18,400 to run the commercial 28 times on the networks of 9NEWS.

QUOTE: Our country's off track. Our government's out of control.

TRUTH: This is an opinion.

QUOTE: And Senator Bennet's giving the President everything he wants. I'm Jane Norton and I'm doing something about it.

TRUTH: Bennet's campaign manager Craig Hughes wrote an e-mail to 9NEWS where he gave examples of where the senator and the president disagree. He cited a Congressional Quarterly Today article from Aug. 8, 2009 which detailed Bennet's proposed budgetary regulations were tougher than the president's. He cited two votes against an increase to the legislative branch appropriations bill which was supported by the administration (Roll Call Vote 214 from 6/25/09 and Roll Call Vote 217 from 7/6/2009). Finally, he cited Bennet's belief in the re-importation of prescription drugs which the administration did not want. (Washington Post, 12/15/09)

QUOTE: In Colorado, she cut government spending.

TRUTH: This isn't true and here's why.

The reality of how Colorado's government is set up is that the only individual who can literally "cut government spending" is the governor and the only way the state's chief executive can do that is through a gubernatorial veto or through line-item veto power. Spending overall is determined by state lawmakers at the state legislature. They are the ones who approve budgets, according to Colorado State University Political Science Professor John Straayer, who has written the definitive book on Colorado's state government, "The Colorado General Assembly." (University Press, 1990, 2000)

Now, the process can and often does start with department heads. Norton is referring to the time when she ran the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) from 1999-2003. The department's budget is comprised of three separate pools of money (General Fund, Cash Funds, and Federal Funds) that lead to a total dollar amount.

The General Fund is full of state income and sales taxes and funds programs that "benefit a majority of state citizens," according to the Legislature's Budget in Brief document. (Source: http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/jbc/FY08-09BIB.pdf, page 1). According to budget figures provided by the state, from when she took over to when she left CDPHE, Norton's general fund budget decreased 47.40 percent. (Source: http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/jbc/apphist.pdf). It went from $23,762,669 in fiscal year (FY) 1999-2000 to $12,500,105 in FY 2003-2004.) These are the figures Norton is using to defend her statement that "she cut government spending."

Norton's critics however say that is only part of the story as the other parts of her department's budget, the Cash Funds and the Federal Funds, went up dramatically over that same period. State budget figures show CDPHE's Cash Funds went from $56,013,323 in FY 1999-2000 to $86,023,467 in FY 2003-2004. CDPHE's Federal Funds went from $147,103,845 in FY 1999-2000 to $159,729,485 in FY 2003-2004. (Source: http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/jbc/apphist.pdf).

Cash funds are set up to "receive earmarked revenues, such as fees and fines," according to the Legislature's Budget in Brief document. Norton says when she ran the department, she could not control how many nurses, for example, sought and paid for a license in a given year. She says she could not control how many companies paid fines for environmental violations. She asserts her role as the head of the department was like a general manager of a baseball team who can control payroll, but cannot control what Major League Baseball sends to her team in things like television revenue.

Her critics, including both her Republican primary rival Tom Wiens and the online grassroots organization, ProgressNow, say she is using fuzzy math.

"Norton's budget at the Dept. of Health actually grew while she was the director," wrote Bobby Clark, the executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, in an e-mail to 9NEWS. "Her general fund money may have gone down some, but that was only a small part of her budget. And, in any case, her "spending" did not go down even if some of her funding did. She's being disingenuous at the least about whether she was shrinking her government department -- the DSCC (Democratic Senate Campaign Committee) and Tom Wiens both aren't buying it since they're using the same figures."

QUOTE: Eliminated waste.

TRUTH: This is ambiguous.

Norton's campaign cites as evidence of this her role as the chair of the Fitzsimons State Veterans Nursing Home Accountability Committee. She was Colorado's lieutenant governor when she was appointed to the position by Gov. Bill Owens (R-Colorado) to ensure "patient safety and financial viability" at the facility. (Source: http://www.cde.state.co.us/artemis/gov3_10/gov5122r252005internet.pdf)

Her campaign spokesman, Nate Strauch, said in an e-mail to 9NEWS that "an example of eliminating waste is making Fitzsimons share resources with the CU Medical Center."

However, that was a recommendation from the committee that members believed needed legislative action but there's no evidence anyone acted upon it or that it "eliminated waste." Norton's campaign did not provide further examples by press time.

QUOTE: De-funded Planned Parenthood.

TRUTH: This is true.

As the head of CDPHE, Norton "first tried and then succeeded in cutting off a $381,956 state grant to Planned Parenthood for low-income women's health services." (Source: Rocky Mountain News, Nov. 23, 2002, Patricia Calhoun column in Westword, Nov. 7, 2002). Norton "attributed the action to strict compliance with a state constitutional mandate - passed by citizen initiative in 1984 and later reaffirmed in a second statewide vote - that prohibits any direct or indirect use of state money to subsidize abortions." (RMN, Nov. 23, 2002)

QUOTE: Jane Norton walked the walk. We can take our country back.

TRUTH: This is opinion.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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