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.”

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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 29

Hospital provider fee bill introduced in Colorado Legislature — with Republican Senate sponsor

Colorado House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst introduced her anticipated bill to turn the hospital provider fee into an enterprise fund Monday with two twists — a Republican sponsor in the Senate and a companion bill allocating general-fund money that would be freed up if the bill were to pass.

Created in 2009, the fee is assessed on hospitals for each night that a bed is filled with a patient, and the revenue is used to receive match funding from the federal government and to increase Medicaid eligibility for childless adults.

It has generated billions of dollars in reimbursements for hospitals that treated previously uninsured patients with no capacity to pay bills, but because the revenue counts against the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) revenue cap, it also pushes the state toward exceeding the cap and having to give taxpayers refunds with money that could otherwise have gone to areas such as education and transportation. Continue reading

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

Lower Colorado budget forecast renews TABOR fight

Lower Colorado budget forecast renews TABOR fight

DENVER – The state will take in less money in 2016-17 than previously forecast by economists due in large part to the struggling global economy, but the roughly $90 million decrease in revenue, is a proverbial drop in Colorado’s $26 billion budget bucket.

Lawmakers will use the March forecast to set the fiscal year 2016-17 budget in the next week, but not much has changed from when the governor released his recommended budget in November. That is largely because lawmakers made mid-year adjustments to the 2015-16 budget to provide a budgeting cushion in case of a downturn.

Lawmakers on Friday received a forecast from Natalie Mullis, chief economist with the Legislative Council, and the governor’s budget office. This year the forecasts were extremely close.

“We did lower our expectations for general fund revenue,” Mullis said. “We already had expectations for slowed growth in revenue. 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 and inflation. It slowed down again a little bit, to 1.5 percent in this revenue forecast,”

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Mar 06

Yes, Colorado’s hospital fee plan is legal

Yes, Colorado’s hospital fee plan is legal

Colorado legislature should reclassify hospital provider fee

By The Denver Post Editorial Board

POSTED:   03/05/2016 

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. (Denver Post file)


Democrats who had accused Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman of undue partisanship might have to rethink their thesis after her announcement last week that it is perfectly legal to adopt a budget manuever the governor has proposed and GOP lawmakers have denounced as a violation of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Not so fast, Coffman said in effect to doubting lawmakers. Based on the language of the constitution and various court rulings, the state could indeed legally reclassify the hospital provider fee to free up $200 million in additional spending under TABOR, her legal analysis concluded.

“The debate over whether to create a hospital provider fee enterprise can now shift back to the General Assembly,” she added.

Unfortunately, leading Republicans in the assembly are still raising dubious legal objections to the plan.


To read the rest of this story, click (HERE):

Mar 05

Republican leader: TABOR issue rides on who should decide

Rep. Brian DelGrosso. R-Loveland

Rep. Brian DelGrosso,

House Republican leader Brian DelGrosso of Loveland said it’s time for “honest fiscal policy” and not TABOR accounting gimmicks to pay for Colorado’s roads and bridges.

DelGrosso has penned an editorial laying out his — and presumably the Republican caucus’ — position on a Democratic plan to reclassify the state’s hospital provider fee to get it out from under a revenue cap voters approved in 1992 when they added the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to the state constitution.

The move also would negate state refunds worth between about $37 up to $111 per taxpayer next year.

“Taking more money from taxpayers without their consent will not solve our challenges,” DelGrosso writes. “We have the money and our budget is growing, but using some budget maneuver is definitely no substitute for honest fiscal policy.”


To read the rest of this story, click (HERE):

Mar 05

TABOR Refunds Targeted By Proposed Ballot Measure

Dan Ritchie, former chancellor of the University of Denver and current co-chair of Building a Better Colorado, announces a push to get a measure on the 2016 ballot that would allow state government to keep more revenue.

Tax refunds or more money for schools and roads? That’s how a coalition frames a debate it hopes to spark in Colorado.

A group of bipartisan civic leaders announced Friday that it’s starting a campaign to get a measure on the 2016 ballot asking voters to ease a revenue cap on state government.

“We are really determined to get something done about this,” said Dan Ritchie, co-chair of Building a Better Colorado, a nonpartisan coalition that toured the state having conversations about Colorado’s political system and constitution.

If passed, the measure’s backers say state funds could be spent fixing potholes and reducing class sizes in schools instead of being refunded to taxpayers.

“Our education needs are not being met and we are not maintaining our road system and streets,” said Ritchie, after making the announcement at Great Education Colorado’s annual conference. “We should be planning for the future in 20 years and that applies to our kids, not just our roads.”

Supporters acknowledge that such a measure wouldn’t fix an underlying structural problem with Colorado’s budget.

“[But] the first rule of getting out of a hole is to stop digging,” said Lisa Weil, who directs Great Education Colorado, a non-profit that advocates for more funding for public schools.

The ballot initiative will likely draw opposition from advocates of small government who support the revenue cap. And backers will need to collect 98,000 signatures to get the measure on the 2016 ballot.

That group’s leaders say the state’s financial future is at stake.

At meetings held across the state last summer, they focused on problems they see with the Taxpayer Bill of Rights — TABOR. Voters enshrined the measure in the state constitution in 1992 as a way to limit the growth of government.

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Mar 03

EDITORIAL: Work with Hick to widen I-25

By: The Gazette editorial

March 2, 2016 Updated: March 2, 2016 at 7:00 pm

I-25 Traffic

Traffic on I-25

Fiscal conservatives, who wisely defend Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, have a renewed option to fix highways and fund education without a tax hike. A new door opened for granting enterprise status to the state’s Hospital Provider Fee when Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman issued an opinion saying the move would not violate the state constitution.

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, an amendment to the constitution, requires state government to return surpluses to individuals when revenues reach a ceiling established by a complex formula that factors inflation and population growth.

Though TABOR has protected the public from excessive spending, taxation and runaway government growth, the Hospital Provider Fee creates a technical glitch and an illusion of state revenue.

Since 2009, hospitals have paid fees to the state. The cash is used to obtain matching funds from the federal government. The fees and federal funds, combined, are returned to hospitals to help fund indigent care.

Though state government does not have discretion with the money, it appears on the books and contributes to tripping TABOR refunds. Gov. John Hickenlooper wants the Legislature to establish an enterprise fund to collect the fees, which would exempt them from counting toward the refund cap.

Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, was cautiously open to considering the idea when Hickenlooper first pitched it early last year. In pursuit of pulling a bill title to create the enterprise in January, Cadman asked for a legal opinion from the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Legal Services – a public firm of several dozen lawyers who craft all legislation. The attorneys handed Cadman an opinion they had written for Democrats in 2013. It said the proposed enterprise would violate TABOR, and it minced no words. Cadman quickly staged a news conference to publicize the opinion and announce he would not support the governor’s plan.

Tuesday’s development could change the outlook. The state’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, a Republican, says enterprise status would not violate the law. Coffman is an unabashed defender of TABOR.

Though conflicting legal opinions cloud the issue, it seems like common sense to sequester hospital fees from TABOR calculations. It is blatant show money, which does not constitute sustained growth of government coffers. Though part of an unseemly federal smoke-and-mirrors scheme to backfill Medicaid, the funds should not trip refunds that were intended to prevent legitimate growth in state revenues.

With the proposed enterprise, state government might retain more than $700 million a year, which could do a lot for our roads.

After hearing of the attorney general’s opinion, Hickenlooper said he would sit down with Cadman and try to strike a compromise. The two men should start with a plan to ensure widening Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock with a portion of the retained revenue. The project would benefit southern Colorado, Denver and the state’s economy. Lock it in by issuing bonds. Republicans also should ensure some of the money benefits K-12 education. And, as Republicans hold all the remaining cards, Cadman should demand better regulations for recreational pot and tuition tax credits for kids.

Retention of refunds, with a simple accounting maneuver, could help Coloradans without raising taxes. Before they make it so, in the spirit of checks and balances, the Senate majority should commandeer control of the funds.

the gazette


Colorado attorney general OKs removing hospital fee from TABOR