Secretary Williams talks dollars and sense to JBC

Secretary of State Wayne Williams talks with lawmakers and members of the Joint Budget Committee Tuesday before a hearing on the department’s budget. Left to right: Rep. Dan Thurlow, R-Grand Junction; Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley; Secretary Williams; Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud; and JBC Chairwoman Millie Hamner, D-Dillon. (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams highlighted the office’s achievements and challenges when he presented his budget requests to the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday.

“We work very hard to make sure we provide the services that Colorado expects and deserves and our paying for with their fees,” he said. “I’m proud that we are able to do that with business fees that are among the lowest in the nation.

Secretary Wayne Williams, the SOS’ budget director, Brad Lang, and Rep. Susan Beckman, R-Littleton, at Tuesday’s Joint Budget Committee hearing. (SOS photo)

“As the state grows, as our processes change, we need to keep pace with that. We need not to be caught napping and waiting and our budget anticipates that.”

He noted the office is working on an information campaign to educate voters about Colorado’s first open primary next June, when unaffiliated voters will receive a ballot and must decide whether to vote the Democratic or Republican ticket.

Voters last year approved that measure with the passage of Proposition 108 and Williams has been on a speaking tour, explaining it to Colorado voters. He will address the League of Women Voters in Durango on Saturday.

He told the JBC that Colorado has just completed the first ever in the nation risk limiting audit, which is an audit of the state’s elections based on mathematical algorithms.

“That provides us with a statistically significant probability that the state’s elections systems correctly tabulated Coloradans ballots,” Williams said.

Lawmakers at the the Joint Budget Committee enjoy a light-hearted moment Tuesday afternoon during a presentation by Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams. Left to right, Chairwoman Millie Hamner, D-Dillon; Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs; Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud; Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Adams County; and Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley. (SOS photo)

The bipartisan Joint Budget Committee meets with state agencies in the fall to discuss their budget requests before the start of the legislative session in January. Three additional House members, Dan Thurlow, R-Grand Junction, Adrienne Benavadiz, D-Adams County, and  Susan Beckman, R-Littleton, also participated.

The hearing ended with a discussion of the Secretary of State’s online campaign finance filing system, known as TRACER. It was one of the topics that the JBC mentioned in written questions to the Secretary of State’s office, but it hadn’t come up until Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City,  commented.

“One of our questions was, ‘How can you make TRACER more user friendly?'” Moreno said. “I file my own campaign finance reports and I think it’s very usable. I enjoy the system, for what it’s worth.”

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, then weighed in.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams talks with Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, about the SOS’ online-campaign finance filing system after a hearing Tuesday afternoon before the Joint Budget Committee. (SOS photo)
“I don’t really try to be argumentative, but it just comes naturally,” he said, to laughter.

“I think TRACER has areas where it needs to be corrected. There are many dead ends in the way the process works,” Lundberg said. “I look forward to the day it is actually a user friendly system that functions well.”

Williams asked lawmakers to e-mail him or send screen shots of problems, and he would talk with his “great people in campaign finance.” He also pointed out that he regularly gets questions about charging $50-a-day fines for campaign finance violations. He explains that is in the Constitution and not something he can change.

“We do have a waiver process that actually is not based on whether I like you or not but on a set of guidelines that are applied fairly in an even-handed manner regardless of party or philosophy,” he said.”

When asked about the JBC after the hearing, Williams noted that Colorado’s budget process works.

“While other governments have sometimes gone years without a budget, our bipartisan process has always adopted a budget in Colorado,” he said. “That’s due in large part to the dedication of the legislators who have served on the JBC.”