May 13

7 winners and losers: Breakdown of the 2016 Colorado legislative session

7 winners and losers: Breakdown of the 2016 Colorado legislative session

May 11, 2016 Updated: May 11, 2016 at 10:45 pm

photo - Colorado State Capitol Building
Colorado State Capitol Building 

The 2016 Colorado legislative session may go down in history as the year of little change.

The politically divided chambers in the General Assembly resulted in neither party having much success with their lengthy agendas.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for political moderates or independents who don’t care about party agendas, but for everyone else, they’ve got something in the loss column this year.

That means 2017 won’t see major policy changes on things like clamping down on construction defects litigation or equal-pay legislation.

Here is a look at some of the winners and losers from the session, which concluded Wednesday:

WINNERS

The Joint Budget Committee

Any politician who can emerge from 120 days of politicking and still look like a high-functioning, level-headed individual. The three Democrats and three Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee received more than their share of accolades for crafting a 581-page budget that somehow managed to appease both sides. Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, and Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, led the committee to a $25.8 billion budget that averted major cuts and – perhaps more significantly – the gridlock all too common across the nation when politicians dig in their heals.

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Apr 28

Colorado Legislators May Push HPF Through Constitutional Loophole

Colorado Legislators May Push HPF Through Constitutional Loophole

April 27, 2016

The House Committee on Appropriations voted 7–6 on March 29 to refer House Bill 1420, sponsored by House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder County) and Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa County), to the Committee of the Whole.

HB 1420 would establish the Colorado Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise (CHASE) as a government-owned business to administer the state’s HPF. HPF is the vehicle by which Colorado expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014 and by which the state collected almost $700 million in revenue the following year.

CHASE’s designation as an “enterprise” would exempt the program from the state constitution’s TABOR, which mandates voters shall decide at the ballot whether Colorado must refund to taxpayers surplus revenue collected by the state, except when the surplus comes from a state “enterprise.”

If passed, CHASE will take effect on July 1, 2016, provided the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) determine the program complies with federal law, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

Word Games

Linda Gorman, director of the Health Care Policy Center at the Independence Institute, says the bill manipulates the meaning of “enterprise” in order to circumvent the state’s constitution.

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Apr 20

Colorado’s Budget Settled, But Debate Coming On Taxes, Refunds

Colorado’s Budget Settled, Debate Coming On Taxes, Refunds « CBS Denver .

Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and other Democrats, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, want the fee set aside to avoid refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, free millions of dollars for Colorado’s underfunded roads and schools, and give momentum to pending ballot initiatives that would ease TABOR’s grip on state finances.

It’s a debate that some thought settled well before both chambers approved the $27 billion budget last week. Not so, said Hullinghorst, a Boulder Democrat.

“In this budget we managed to get by, but next year it will be twice as bad with cuts in education and higher education,” she said. The House could debate her bill this week.

Hullinghorst said reclassifying the fee can provide at least five years’ flexibility to spend more on schools and roads, and tackle TABOR and other constitutional restrictions on budget writers’ room to maneuver.

TABOR requires refunds whenever total state income surpasses a cap that’s based on inflation and population, not the economy’s performance.

 

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Mar 30

Business leaders battle Republican lawmaker in hospital-fee bill hearing

Business leaders battle Republican lawmaker in hospital-fee bill hearing

Colorado business leaders charged into the state Capitol Tuesday to advocate for a newly introduced change in the hospital provider fee that they believe will increase funding for transportation and education — and ran right into a key Republican legislator who questioned whether they would be taking revenues illegally from companies and individuals that need them more.

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst’s long-planned bill to pull some $700 million out from under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) revenue cap and turn it into an enterprise fund received its first hearing in the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday, one day after it was introduced.

Committee Democrats passed it onto the House floor over the objections of Republicans, the first of several steps in what is expected to be a weeks-long fight over one of the most watched measures of this legislative session.

The seven-year-old provider fee charges hospitals for each night a bed is occupied, leverages that money to get an equal amount of federal matching funds and expands the eligibility of childless adults for Medicaid, reducing the burden of uncompensated care on hospitals.

By turning the fee into an enterprise, it frees a lot more room for the state to collect new revenues without reaching its TABOR cap and having to give back any excess money as tax refunds.

 

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Mar 30

Bipartisan Hospital Provider Fee Bill Introduced At Colorado Capitol

Bipartisan Hospital Provider Fee Bill Introduced At Colorado Capitol

The Colorado State Capitol.

(Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

State lawmakers introduced a bill Monday that would eliminate tax refunds and give the state more money to spend.Colorado is collecting so much money that it has to send some of it back to residents, as required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

But Democrats say there’s a big pot of money in the state budget that shouldn’t count toward the TABOR limit. It’s a fee hospitals pay that the state spends on expanding health coverage for the poor.

The new bill changes how the state accounts for this fee, making it exempt from TABOR. That would effectively allow the state to hold onto hundreds of millions of dollars it would otherwise have to pay out in tax rebates.

A separate measure, which would only apply to next year, directs lawmakers to spend the extra money on transportation, local governments, and schools.

The fee-change bill has bipartisan sponsorship. Sen. Larry Crowder, a Republican, says the change could help rural hospitals in his southeastern district.

However the Republicans who control the state Senate strongly oppose the reclassification, calling it an end-run around TABOR.

House Speaker Dickie Lee Hullinghorst said she tried to work with Senate leaders.

“There didn’t seem to be a way that we could get together,” she said. “And I felt that we had to move forward.”

– See more at: https://www.cpr.org/news/newsbeat/bipartisan-hospital-provider-fee-bill-introduced-colorado-capitol#sthash.0JGvqvqF.dpuf

Mar 30

Speaker: Talks on proposal to eliminate TABOR refunds at a stalemate

Speaker: Talks on proposal to eliminate TABOR refunds at a stalemate

Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Boulder was nominated as majority leader during the Colorado House of Representatives Democratic Caucus at the state Capitol in Denver, CO, Thursday November 8, 2012. Democrats took back the majority in the House after Tuesday’s election, and will have a 37-28 majority when the session opens in January. Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post

DENVER – The speaker of the Colorado House said negotiations have reached a “stalemate” on a long-debated and highly anticipated proposal to retain more state revenue through an accounting change that would eliminate TABOR refunds in future years.

The prospects for the bills Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst introduced Monday are poor in the Republican-dominated Senate.

One of the bills reauthorizes a fee charged on hospital stays so that millions of dollars go into an enterprise fund that is exempt from the spending limits in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. The other bill spends the revenue the state would retain if the first bill passes.

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Mar 26

Colorado’s provider ‘fee’: Even the federal government knows its a tax

March 25, 2016 12:22 PM· By Linda Gorman

In 2009, the Democrats controlling Colorado state government wanted more money. Among other things, they wanted to expand Medicaid. They needed to increase state revenues. Their problem was that the Colorado Constitution requires a vote on new state taxes and the U.S. was in the depths of a severe economic downturn.

icon_blog_noteState officials knew that a new tax would never be approved by a popular vote. To get around both the letter and the spirit of their constitutional duty, they simply labeled the provider tax a “fee” and imposed it. Fees do not require a vote.

Today that tax badly disguised as a fee is raising $688 million in additional revenues that is counted towards the total amount of tax revenue that the state is allowed to keep under the Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).

 

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Mar 25

Colorado budget bill eliminates TABOR refunds, slashes spending

Hospitals and road construction take a hit, but budget writers warn it could have been far worse

(Denver Post file)

Facing a money crunch, Colorado lawmakers resorted to extraordinary feats to craft a $27 billion budget bill Thursday, eliminating a $59 million taxpayer refund, slashing $73 million of payments to hospitals and cutting $50 million for road construction.

Even then, budget writers needed to pull millions from other cash accounts and tap reserves to balance the spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

But the moves prevented even deeper spending cuts to classrooms, college campuses and health care providers that Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed in his budget plan.

Click (HERE) to read the rest of the story:

 

Mar 20

Low state revenues may mean no TABOR refunds next year

Low state revenues may mean no TABOR refunds next year

2016_Legislature_LOGOS

DENVER — State revenues have dropped off a bit, enough that it could prevent an automatic refund under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, state economists told lawmakers on Friday.

Projections for the next fiscal year are expected to be down by about $111 million, meaning the state likely won’t reach the revenue cap that automatically triggers a refund under TABOR as had been expected from the last forecast in December, the Colorado Legislature’s chief economist, Natalie Mullis, told members of the Joint Budget Committee.

“We did lower our expectations for general fund revenue,” Mullis said. “In December, we expected that general fund revenue would grow by 1.8 percent this year, which is actually negative if you adjust for population growth and inflation. It’s slowed down a little bit to 1.5 percent in this revenue forecast. That impacts the bottom line.”

In her forecast for the first quarter of 2016, Mullis said that the national and state economies expanded last year, but slowed somewhat in the second half of 2015. Continue reading