Yesterday, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter presented a new budget that includes nearly 300 state job cuts and the early release of some prisoners, among other politically toxic proposals. In an effort to sell it, Ritter penned (or at least authorized) an op-ed for the Denver Post entitled "This Budget Minimizes Pain," in which he doesn't just play the empathy card; he fans out the entire empathy deck. Near the top of his essay, he writes, "I grew up in a big family of modest means. There were periods when my father couldn't find work, when the only way my mother could put dinner on the table was with food stamps. I know what it's like to struggle, and I know families and businesses across Colorado continue to hurt." And while he concedes that "there is still much pain and sacrifice asked of Coloradans," he portrays the parole portion of the document as "an opportunity to enact an innovative recommendation from the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice that fits within my ongoing anti-prison-recidivism initiative," not a desperate effort to staunch the flow of red ink.
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Ritter hasn't always displayed a great deal of political skill since taking office; too often, he's succeeded only at turning friends into enemies. However, he's handled the budget-cut spin pretty well thus far, and he'll have to keep it up if he wants to stay in office for another term. Although the Republican opponents who've lined up to date don't exactly constitute a murderer's row (hell, Josh Penry can't even hang onto his barbecue), Ritter remains vulnerable. He'd better hope none of those parolees does something especially bad the second they get an early pass from the pokey.