Colorado departments and agencies are paying dues, fees, memberships and joining professional associations to the tune of $2.7 million during the 2014-15 fiscal year, a legislative memoobtained by Watchdog.org shows.
Those include big-ticket items such as the nearly $150,000 the state Education Department paid to the Illinois Migrant Council, almost $20,000 the governor’s office paid a travel lobbying association and more than $36,000 to a state dental director organization, accordind to the memo.
And there are also small-ticket items detailed in the memo that raise eyebrows, like a few hundred dollars each to dozens of regional chambers of commerce, apparently the International Lactation Consultant Association, listed only as the ILCA, and even the Denver Press Club.
In light of the state’s budget crunch, state Rep. Janak Joshi, R-Colorado Springs, is proposing to slash the amount state agencies spend on associations and membership fees in half. He concedes his bill has little chance of passage, but legislative staff research raises questions about why the state is spending so much money on groups, lobbying and associations.
“Other than some legitimate memberships for professional and licensing organizations, why does the government have be a member of all these organizations,” said Joshi, who commissioned the legislative research on how much the state pays each year and provided the document to Watchdog.org.
Kathy Green, spokeswoman for Gov. John Hickenlooper, said all of the spending serves a legitimate need for taxpayers and some of the expenses detailed in the staff research are either inaccurate, miscategorized — not association spending — or not funded by state tax dollars.
But despite Watchdog.org providing detailed items from the memo to each department, Green, who taxpayers pay nearly $135,000 a year to answer reporters’ questions, would not return phone calls to discuss specific spending. Instead, she emailed a general statement Wednesday.