DelGrosso calls Democrats’ fee plan a “shell game”
By Joey Bunch
The Denver Post
A deal to move the state’s hospital provider fee out from under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights’ revenue cap appeared in peril Tuesday, a week before the legislature convenes.
Republican legislative leaders said at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce breakfast they won’t support the move, even if they’re promised more money for statewide transportation projects as a result.
The battle over moving the fee out from under the TABOR rules is expected to be one of the biggest disputes of the legislature, which returns Jan. 13.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and many fellow Democrats want to reclassify the hospital provider fee as an enterprise fund. He seeks to exempt it from counting toward the TABOR formula of inflation plus population growth. Exempting the fee, estimated to be $750 million in the next state budget, also would prevent the state from having to refund an estimated $156.5 million to taxpayers.
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Legislative Democrats and Republicans began laying out their agendas Monday for the upcoming session, and their priorities once again are worlds apart on business issues — particularly on the long-running matter of construction defects reform.
House Republicans said they will seek for a fourth time to pass a bill making it harder for small numbers of condominium owners to file class-action construction-defects lawsuits against builders when the session begins on Jan. 13.
Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman lays out Democrats’ legislative agenda
ED SEALOVER | DENVER BUSINESS JOURNAL
And they will make a fifth-straight effort to pass a bill that would require the state to warn, rather than fine, small businesses that commit first-time offenses of new rules that do not endanger public safety.
House Democrats, meanwhile, said they will look at ways to ensure that men and women receive equal pay for doing the same jobs at private businesses and will try for a second time to require international companies that hold some of their profits in offshore tax havens to include that revenue when calculating Colorado taxes. Continue reading
Colorado’s unique tax law — the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR — will likely become a point of conversation and contention during much of 2016 in both the legislative session and at the ballot box.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s budget request attributed some of the need for millions of dollars in cuts to the constitutional amendment that is seen by some as too restrictive a way to govern Colorado’s spending.
Movement is already afoot to make change. As an example, a nonpartisan group of state leaders called Building a Better Colorado has been traveling Colorado this year to find consensus on a possible ballot initiative in November to change parts of TABOR.
In addition, state Democrat lawmakers have said they plan to bring back last year’s failed hospital provider fee bill, a potential work-around TABOR to create wiggle room in the state’s budget. The hospital provider fee, which is assessed on hospitals to help pay for indigent health care, has raised so much money that it has bolstered state budgets past TABOR limits, requiring the state to issue taxpayer refunds. Continue reading
Although the election may have ended a month ago, at least one Colorado school district superintendent hasn’t stopped campaigning.
Littleton Public Schools (LPS) Superintendent Brian Ewert sent out a newsletter Wednesday that drew ire from several residents in the district.
The tri-fold, full-color, glossy mailer from the school district started off with a letter from Ewert that seemed innocent at first.
“Little Public Schools is a special place where students excel, families thrive, and the community has a long tradition of supporting its schools,” the letter read.
However, it immediately turns to talk of inadequate statewide tax structure and a need for more money. But that’s not what crossed the line for residents like Lori Horn, who received the mailer despite not having students in the district.
“This is a new superintendent,” Horn said. “It was a different kind of letter for families to receive. I was surprised to get it since I don’t currently have kids in public schools here. They paid some money for it. It looked like a fluff piece about nice things going on in the schools, but one-third of it was his letter.” Continue reading
A flyer recently mailed to Littleton Public Schools (LPS) residents asking them to contact their state legislators about an education funding plan cost the district nearly $10,000.
LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert sent out a newsletter earlier this month asking residents to support a possible bill that would remove the hospital provider fee from the general fund and convert it to an enterprise fund – thereby exempting the fee from counting toward the state’s constitutional revenue limit under the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) and potentially opening the door to increased education funding.
The hospital provider fee is a fee charged to hospitals for each bed used by a patient daily. The revenue goes to fund the state’s expansion of Medicaid. By removing it from the general fund, it is predicted it would free up more than $600 million under the TABOR’s revenue cap. That would prevent automatic refunds to Colorado residents and possibly allow for more education funding.
Joint Budget Committee Chairman Kent Lambert-R has called the controversial maneuver a shell game in its effort to skirt TABOR laws.
The tri-fold, full-color, glossy mailer from the school district is Ewert’s first informational flyer since taking over as superintendent this year Continue reading
Colorado business groups are ramping up the debate over the state’s hospital provider fee, warning that if lawmakers don’t change how the state accounts for the money the fee generates, they’ll “almost certainly force” a tax increase to address Colorado’s crumbling roads instead.
The letter was sent to leaders of both chambers of the Legislature on Wednesday, calling on lawmakers to set revenue from the hospital fee aside in a so-called “enterprise fund” that wouldn’t be subject to limitations imposed by the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.
The letter is mainly directed at Senate Republicans, whose opposition killed a bill on the provider fee in the last session of the Legislature after it had already cleared the Democratic-majority House..
The business groups constitute a crucial support sector for GOP-sponsored legislation. The letter to leadership on the hospital fee is meant to give cover to Republican leaders who are feeling pressure from more conservative elements of the party that want to block the enterprise fund idea — or who want to repeal the fee altogether.
“Republicans are certainly sensitive to the needs of the business community. The Senate Republicans have a track record of fighting for businesses,” said Tony Milo, executive director of the Colorado Contractors Association, one of the organizations backing the request. “We want to point out this is something important to businesses.” Continue reading
Hickenlooper calls for pulling the money from TABOR limits
A $1.2 billion system that provides health care to thousands of Colorado residents is becoming a political and fiscal headache for Gov. John Hickenlooper and lawmakers — one likely to dominate the 2016 legislative session.
The hospital provider fee program is expected to collect more than $750 million in fees in the next budget year and help propel state revenues over the TABOR limits, forcing the state to issue taxpayer refunds and reduce spending in key areas.
The dichotomy is driving the Democratic governor’s push to overhaul the program, despite being rebuffed by lawmakers earlier this year, and renewing questions about how the fee works.
More than usual, the greatest obstacle is politics. The debate represents a confluence of polarizing issues, from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to the expansion of Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care law.
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