Call a special session | GJSentinel.com
Call a special session
One of the bigger disappointments of the current legislative session, which ends today, is that Senate Republicans dodged taking any action on the contentious hospital provider fee.
The House passed two bills, 1420 and 1450, which would have converted the fee to an enterprise, thereby freeing up space under the revenue cap set by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Getting the fee out from under TABOR would have allowed $750 million to be directed toward transportation and education and helped backfill some of the $362 million in severance taxes that lawmakers have used to cover spending gaps since 2006.
Senate leaders delayed introducing the bills until Tuesday, thus assuring they wouldn’t get the required number of readings needed to pass before the sessions ends.
Several Republicans broke ranks to support the House measures, so it would have been instructive to hear arguments in the Senate. In an election year, voters deserve to understand the rationale behind fiscal policy positions and who’s taking them.
Early on, some Republicans argued that converting the fee eliminated refunds to taxpayers. But budget negotiations removed that scenario from the equation. In a parallel universe, funding for roads and schools without a tax increase sounds like something the GOP would get behind.
“I don’t quite understand a lot of my fellow Republicans saying, ‘Oh, we have to preserve TABOR,’” John Suthers told The Colorado Independent last week. “The easiest way to preserve TABOR, and not increase taxes, is to remove the provider fee from the calculation. But obviously there’s a group in the Senate that feels differently.”
In 2009, Suthers, who was then Colorado’s Republican attorney general, urged lawmakers to make the new fee an enterprise. The current attorney general, Republican Cynthia Coffman, says converting it now is perfectly legal.