U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton said Tuesday that the governor's plan to spend stimulus money "directly contradicts what he previously told me."
Other Republicans were more candid in their assessments of the governor's Monday executive order on how to spend nearly $1.7 million in federal stimulus dollars.
“Governor Polis would be wise to include all legislators and local leaders to craft a response and relief package that all Coloradans would be proud to stand behind,” said Sen. John Cooke of Greeley, the Senate assistant minority leader.
The fuss with Tipton, a Republican congressman from Cortez, began more than a month ago when he accused the Democratic governor of hoarding relief money and potentially leaving out counties and municipalities, in a story first reported by Charles Ashby of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.
Fielding a question from Ashby in a subsequent press conference, Polis recounted a conversation he said he had with Tipton about the matter.
"Look, Scott, you used to be in the legislature, you know how this works," Polis told reporters. "Now you're in a national legislature. The legislature has the power of the purse."
Tuesday, Tipton pushed back, citing the executive order the governor signed Monday, in which he appeared to divvy up the money, including hundreds of millions for various state agencies and $275 million to a consortium of local governments guided by the governor's Department of Local Affairs.
“In April, I wrote to the Governor asking him to address rumors on his plans for the state’s share of the CARES Act relief funds," he said in a statement. "He criticized me for questioning the potential use of the funds, said I did not understand how the state budget process works, and said the legislature, not the governor, would decide how the funds were spent. Now he has unilaterally through an executive order decided how he would use the funds.
"Either the Governor has forgotten his own accounting of how the state budget process works, or his response in April was an effort to deflect and distract from the question of if he would distribute the funds to local governments for COVID-related expenses, as so many have requested.
"Nothing about this executive order is collaborative or bipartisan, and local officials I have heard from — on both sides of the aisle — have expressed frustration about being kept in the dark. I hope the Governor has answers to the questions our communities will undoubtedly ask about the use of the relief funds.”
Conor Cahill, the governor's spokesman, responded Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s unfortunate Congressman Tipton is using this crisis to take political potshots," Cahill said in an email. "First, he falsely complained that the Governor wasn’t going to send the money to local governments, now after the Governor worked with legislative leaders to send the money to local governments, Tipton is complaining that the Governor is sending it to local governments.
"No one likes a complainer and that is all that Scott Tipton is becoming. At least he voted for the package and will hopefully pursue additional federal funding for the communities he represents who are hurting right now rather than complaining that the Governor is actually sending the money to western slope communities."
You can read the governor's executive order by clicking here.
In his statement Tuesday, Tipton said the U.S. Treasury should look "critically" at the governor’s spending plan.
"And I challenge the Governor to explain how money for colleges to ‘increase student retention and completions’ are an allowable use of this money,” he added.
The Colorado GOP called on Polis to to "activate and utilize all branches of our government" to make big decisions, instead of doing it by executive order.
"It is unacceptable that members of the general assembly are finding out about billion dollar allocations via Twitter and press releases," the state party said..
Chairman Ken Buck, who doubles as a congressman from Windsor, said Polis "took it upon himself" to distribute the federal dollars.
"We have three branches of government in Colorado, and the branch which constitutionally holds the power of the purse was completely ignored by this action,” Buck said. “The voters of Colorado have selected their local state representatives and state senators to work together to find solutions for the problems of the day, the voices of Colorado voters should not be silenced by executive order.”
House Republican leader Patrick Neville said his caucus members are eager to get back to work. The General Assembly resumes next Tuesday.
“Governor Polis must work with the legislature to restart our economy with no more empty promises," Neville said. "The state government needs to work for all Coloradans.”