DENVER With half the annual legislative session over, state leaders evaluations of their own success depend on where they sit.
The sessions going fine, said Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Its more of the same bad liberal ideas, said Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp, a Republican.
Its a model of bipartisan cooperation, said Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, also a Republican.
Its been a showcase for costly Republican ideas, said both Senate President Brandon Shaffer and House Minority Leader Sal Pace, both Democrats.
Im really proud of the ability of Republicans and Democrats to work together, said McNulty, the first Republican to be in charge of the state House in six years.
With 60 days left before they adjourn, legislators have successfully balanced the current years budget, but the bigger decisions on next years spending plan still await them.
The first half of the session also weeded out some of the most partisan legislation. Democratic bills on labor unions and Republican bills on tax breaks or illegal immigration died in unfriendly committees.
And House Republicans killed a number of their own bills on their highest priorities during last years election, like reducing or repealing Democratic fees on car registration and hospitals, or enacting the nations toughest illegal immigration law.
Theres a recognition that these are serious times, and we need to approach things in a serious manner, McNulty said. And it is a measure of picking your battles. These are times when we need to stay focused on the issues of job creation and the economy.
Democrats called the GOP bills irresponsible, because some of them would have required bigger budget cuts.
Republicans are introducing bills that would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, money we dont even have, Pace said.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans who are still in the minority blame Democrats for the fiscal crisis because of their insistence on minimizing cuts to schools.
I think its safe to say the Democrats continue to labor under the belief that you can continue doing the same thing and expect different results, Kopp said.
Hickenlooper paid little heed to the partisan sniping and is positioning himself as the unifier of the two parties for next months crucial budget decisions.
My goal is to try and get people to put down the weapons and say were all going to work on this together, Hickenlooper said.
The highest praise for Hickenlooper, a Democrat, comes from Republicans. Both McNulty and Kopp say they will try to defend the governors budget plan that deals a large, permanent cut to public schools.
Kopp even jokes that its nice to have a Republican governor.
Republicans criticized Hickenloopers predecessor, Bill Ritter, for relying on one-year fixes like federal money and state savings accounts, while delaying permanent reductions to the size of government.
Democrats, meanwhile, are looking for ways to tweak Hickenloopers budget plan to minimize the cuts to schools. Shaffer asked his Senate Democrats to find alternative cuts, and said he will present them soon.
Reach Joe Hanel at firstname.lastname@example.org.