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Lawmaker says government-funded lobbying should end

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DENVER -- It is perhaps the most important thing state lawmakers do -- decide how Colorado’s tax money is spent.

It impacts roads, schools and just about every other part of public life.

And that is why one lawmaker is sounding the alarm, upset that taxpayer money is being spent on what he refers to as taxpayer-funded lobbyists.

“I found out that it was anywhere between $7 (million) to $9 million,” said Rep. Janak Joshi, R-Colorado Springs. “I have always wondered why does government need a lobbyist? That doesn’t make sense. It’s a waste of taxpayer money,"

A document by the nonpartisan Legislative Council details how much is spent by various government agencies. The Secretary of State’s office spends around $50,000 a year, the Department of Human Services spends $160,000 and the Governor’s office spends $431,000.

Joshi believes that money would be better spent elsewhere, and that elected and appointed officials should not “outsource” the job they were sent to do.

“We are here to serve the people of Colorado,” Joshi said.

The Governor's office declined an interview request but Gov. John Hickenlooper was asked about the expense at a recent news conference.

“The way I look at it is somebody has to educate everybody  -- especially with term limits there is so much turnover among lawmakers,” Hickenlooper said. “I need them coming over here all the time."

Hickenlooper later seemed to make light of the question by answering another question by saying “I haven’t sat down and had my lobbyist lobby me on this issue yet. Just kidding.”

Kathy Green, the governor's spokeswoman, refuted the Legislative Council’s report and said the actual figure the Governor's office spent was closer to $200,000. Green also said the governor doesn’t hire “lobbyists” but instead a legislative liason staff.

“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it must be a duck,” Joshi said in response.

This past legislative session introduced a bill that would have cut the amount of lobbying expenses in half in state government. It failed.

“I think every dollar counts,” Joshi said, promising to bring up the legislation again next year.

In addition to lobbyist spending, Joshi is also determined to crack down on membership fees that government organizations pay to join. He said millions are spent to join various chamber of commerce organizations.