(May 30) – A bipartisan measure to save hospitals from devastating budget cuts and begin to address a variety of budget shortcomings was signed into law today by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“It took a lot of work to get to where we are today, but it was time well spent because all Coloradans will benefit,” said Majority Leader KC Becker, sponsor of SB17-267. “It will literally save lives by preventing dangerous cuts in health care services. It will also allow us to tackle some of our most badly needed transportation projects and help seniors and small businesses.”
The climactic bill of the recently concluded legislative session restores $528 million in funding cuts that would have doomed some rural hospitals and forced every hospital in the state to reduce programs and services. The bill also dedicates new funding to motorists, public school students, small business owners and seniors.
“SB267 is an example of what is possible when we challenge ourselves to collaborate and problem-solve, and make sure we always put Coloradans first,” Speaker Crisanta Duran said. “It is not a long-term solution, but it is a meaningful step to begin to address the needs of our growing and increasingly prosperous state.”
Efforts to pass a hospital provider fee fix stalled in 2015 and 2016, and Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, announced before the 2017 session that he considered the issue dead. But Majority Leader Becker, D-Boulder, and Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, found willing partners in Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, both of whom were concerned about the adverse impact of hospital funding cuts on small rural hospitals in their districts.
Together, they brought forward SB17-267, which reconstitutes the hospital provider fee as a state enterprise, still drawing federal matching funds but exempt from the state revenue cap in the Colorado constitution. Some of the cap headroom freed up by the accounting shift will be used to reduce the cap by $200 million; spend $100 million to buy nearly $2 billion in certificates of participation to start to chip away at $9 billion in needs for Colorado’s dilapidated transportation system; direct $30 million to rural schools; and save Colorado businesses $21 million in business personal property taxes.
The new law also reconstitutes the senior homestead property tax exemption as the first rebate to taxpayers in years when TABOR rebates are mandated, helping Colorado seniors stay in their homes.