Joint Budget Committee transition underway as Sens. Lambert, Lundberg bow out

Former Colorado state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, in a 2016 file photo. (John Tomasic/Colorado Politics)

With four of the six members of the Joint Budget Committee term-limited at the end of 2018, moves are afoot to find replacements. But so far it appears to be slow-going.

Republican Sens. Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs and Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud notified their caucus in writing before the session ended that they wanted to step down from the JBC by June 30. That means getting new or stand-in members in place by Sep. 20, the JBC’s next official meeting at which they will review revenue forecasts.

So who’s on the short list? Sen. Kevin Priola of Henderson tops the list of names, although he did not return a call to Colorado Politics to confirm.

Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial has also been mentioned as a possible replacement, but he told Colorado Politics his interests lie in a different direction and that he would prefer to continue working on “big picture” legislation. That includes more reforms to the Public Employees Retirement Association and potentially a fix for the budget problems caused by the Gallagher Amendment. He also confirmed Priola’s interest.

It’s possible that Senate Republicans might only get one out of those two replacements if the predicted “blue wave” takes place in Colorado and Democrats take control of the state Senate. That would give Democrats a second appointment on the committee, but not until after the Nov. 6 election.

Decisions about which Senate members go on JBC are made by each Senate caucus. Not so in the House: The speaker of the House appoints his/her caucus’s two JBC members. The House minority leader picks one member to serve on the committee.

House Democrats are in the same position as Senate Republicans, with two term-limited members: Reps. Millie Hamner of Dillon and Dave Young of Greeley. But there appears to be no rush to replace them, although sources told Colorado Politics that Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran notified her caucus last year to start thinking about it, with a suggestion that interested members could “shadow” the committee to learn the ropes.

Young told Colorado Politics that he and Hamner will be at JBC meetings, including the Sept. 20 revenue forecast, as well as any other JBC business meetings through the November election.

After that, House Democrats, who are expected to retain majority control of the House, will hold elections to choose a new speaker. (Rep. KC Becker of Boulder is the favorite, although other candidates could emerge.) Then the speaker will choose the replacement members for JBC.

Among the names being floated for JBC among House Democrats include those who attended JBC meetings throughout the 2018 session: Reps. Adrienne Benavidez of Denver, Daneya Esgar of Pueblo, Chris Hansen of Denver and Tracy Kraft-Tharp of Arvada. All four told Colorado Politics they are interested, although Kraft-Tharp said she would really miss chairing the House Business Committee.

Another House Democrat who has shown interest in JBC is Rep. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs, who is now running for the Senate to replace Sen. Mike Merrifield of Manitou Springs. Should Lee win that race, he could be in the running for a second JBC seat for Senate Democrats, should they take control of the Senate in November.

The changeover at the JBC means nearly 20 years of experience on setting the state budget will evaporate at the beginning of the 2019 session. Lambert is the longest-serving member of the group, appointed in August 2009. Hamner and Young will have served for four years by the end of the year. Lundberg was the most recent appointee, in 2017.

That leaves Democratic Sen. Dominick Moreno, also a 2017 appointee, and Republican Rep. Bob Rankin of Carbondale, who will be the committee’s senior member, with four years on JBC by the end of this year.

Who chairs the JBC switches from year to year between chambers. Hamner served as chair in 2018, meaning a member of the Senate will chair the committee in 2019. That could either be Moreno, if Democrats take the Senate, or if Republicans maintain control, a member new to the committee.

The transition comes at a time when House Republican leadership is calling for changes to how the state budget is formed, including spreading out the budget work among the legislative committees that have oversight over state agencies.

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