The man Coloradans call "Governor Gloom" turned his baleful eye on Washington today in a "State of the State" message rich with denunciations of the federal government.
Opening the last year of his third and final term as Colorado governor, Democrat Richard D. Lamm told the legislature that one of the major problems facing his and other states is "the continuing inability of Washington to deal rationally with its mounting deficit."
He said the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget-balancing law approved by Congress last month is not a means of cutting spending but a ploy to transfer federal programs, and the taxes that fund them, to other levels of government.
"The consequences of federal mismanagement are being placed on state and local governments," Lamm said. "This is buck-passing without the bucks."
Denouncing Washington has long been a common political endeavor here and in other western states, and Lamm's harsh comments are like those of most western governors in their state-of-the-state addresses this month.
But Lamm, who has won considerable attention nationally for his bleak view of the nation's future, recently toned down his barbs at Washington, instead blaming broad social and economic trends for problems he foresees.
Today, though, he returned with full force to the anti-Washington camp. In addition to attacking the federal government's "mismanagement" of fiscal affairs, he said Congress' post-Watergate efforts to clean up politics have failed.
As a result of flawed "campaign-reform" efforts, Lamm said, "Congress is full of PACmen and PACwomen and a 'For Sale' sign hangs on the American political system." He was referring to political action committee members.
Lamm, 50, is Colorado's most popular political figure and would have been a formidable contender for a fourth term or a Senate seat.
But he is stepping out of politics, at least for a while. He has told friends he would like a new job that would permit him to continue being a visible prophet of the unhappy future he foresees.
Today he spoke briefly about the sharp change in his attitude since his optimistic days as a young state legislator and governor.
In soft tones that made him sound more like a college lecturer than a politician, the white-haired Lamm recalled that, when he first entered government "my hair was totally black, and I had many more answers than I have today. Today, it is much more clear to me that all solutions that sound good are not necessarily good, sound solutions."
Lamm proposed no specific solutions for meeting state and national needs, but he set forth nine areas of concern that should be addressed. One was federal "mismanagement."
"Having spent 20 years writing blank checks for defense and domestic programs," he complained, "Washington is in full retreat from assistance to state and local governments."
The other areas: improving higher education; maintaining and extending the infrastructure of highways and transit systems; building a new Denver airport; increasing prison capacity; managing and conserving water; dealing with civil liability; assuring safety in transport of hazardous materials, and reviving seriously troubled segments of the agriculture industry.