In this very tight budget year, the legislature passed a budget that avoided the major cuts originally proposed after the November forecast.
What this year’s budget accomplished:
- Increased per-pupil average spending for K-12 schools by $112 to $7,425
- Averted a possible $20 million cut to higher education
- Set transfers to the state’s highway fund at $150 million
- Maintained the statutory 6.5 percent budget reserve
- Averted cuts to payment rates for medical providers
But Colorado has strict budgetary constraints, so there were some dark spots:
- Flat funding for higher education, which likely means tuition will rise
- Cut funding for hospitals – $73 million for the hospital provider fee, which turns in to a much bigger loss because of lost matching federal funds
- Kept the negative factor flat when we should be decreasing it and supporting our K-12 schools
- Cut transportation funding for next year by $50 million
There was hope to free up revenue under the TABOR cap, allowing Colorado to make the investments in schools, roads, and other high priorities that are necessary to ensure our continued prosperity and global competitiveness. Legislation to turn the hospital provider fee into an enterprise passed the House with bipartisan support but was killed in Senate Finance.
Turning the hospital provider fee into an enterprise would have given our budget the flexibility to address the shortcomings listed above
- Immediately upon passage, HB16-1420 and HB16-1450 would have:
- Restored $145 million in hospital support
- Freed up tens of millions of dollars in the 2016-17 fiscal year for investment in the state’s priorities, especially schools and roads
- Allocated $40 million to increase funding for K-12 by reducing the negative factor
- Restored $16.2 million to the FY 2015-16 Severance Tax transfer (additional funding for local governments)
- Freed up as much as $700 million for new transportation projects
- Increased funding by $49.5 million for higher education
- Averted a host of drastic cuts in the 2017-18 fiscal year, including a zero general fund budget for state transportation projects
- Recognizing its ability to allow sufficient investments in schools, roads and other public services to support Colorado’s continued prosperity and global competitiveness, more than 100 business and civic groups and every major editorial page in the state supported the hospital provider fee package.
An Economy That Works for Everyone
Colorado continues to recover from the recession. Our unemployment rate is 2.9 percent, ranking us third in the nation. However, the effects of the recovery still aren’t felt by everyone – and many hardworking Coloradoans are still having a hard time making ends meet. This session we continued our work to strengthen our economy and build a Colorado where everyone has a fair shot at success and access to good-paying jobs.
- Extend the ReHire Colorado program, which provides job training focused on veterans, seniors and non- custodial parents to secure long-term employment. (HB16-1290 Reps. Esgar & Kraft-Tharp, headed to the Governor to be signed)
- Update content standards through the Department of Education to include tech skills and create a voluntary resource bank for schools and districts that want to start or expand computer science programs. (HB16-1291Reps. Duran & Lontine, passed the House 38-26, killed in Senate Appropriations)
Provide an income tax credit to qualified Colorado businesses that integrate quality apprenticeships into their workplaces. (HB16-1301 Rep. Garnett, passed the House 39-25, killed in Senate Finance)
Create a pilot program where school districts receive a $1,000 bonus for each high school student who (1) earns an industry certification tied to an in-demand job, (2) finishes a rigorous workplace training program tied to key industry needs, or (3) successfully completes a Computer Science AP course. (HB16-1289 Reps. Duran & Esgar, headed to the Governor to be signed)
Engage business in building the workforce by creating a matching grant for industries to help facilitate skills training and education in the classroom and ensure our students are prepared for the jobs of the future. (HB16-1288, headed to the Governor to be signed)
Equality for All, Opportunity for All
Everyone deserves an equal shot at success. This session, we were committed to leveling the playing field to build a Colorado where every person has the opportunity to succeed.
- Equal Pay legislation to close the pay gap and push for equal pay for equal work in Colorado. Require any company that receives a state contract to give women equal pay for equal work (HB16-1001, killed in Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs). Promote transparency and end pay discrimination by expanding protection to all employees in the state who wish to discuss wages with their coworkers (HB16-1156, headed to the Governor to be signed). Allow prospective employers to ask job applicants what their salary requirement is, but not what their previous salary was. The Fair Pay from the Start Act ensures that women, minorities, and millennials who may have been underpaid in a previous position are able to enter salary negotiations based on qualifications and requirements, not on previous salary history (HB16-1166, killed in Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs).
- Legislation to address the shortage of affordable housing in Colorado. Increase access to affordable housing by devoting money from the unclaimed property trust fund (HB16-1466, passed the House 37-27, killed in Senate Appropriations) Extend Colorado’s successful Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program until 2019 to create more affordable housing. (HB16-1467, headed to the Governor to be signed). Help Colorado families save for their first home with First-time Homebuyers Savings Accounts (HB16-1467, headed to the Governor to be signed)
- Ensure taxes are paid where profits are made by closing offshore tax havens that some corporations in Colorado use to avoid paying state income tax. The money collected from those taxes, estimated at up to $150 million annually, would go into Colorado’s state education fund. (HB16-1275, killed in Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee)
- Help Colorado families save for college by allowing taxpayers to split their tax refund and invest a portion into college savings accounts. (HB16-1371,passed the House 35-30, killed in Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs). The Middle Class College Savings Act would reorient the benefits of the state tax deductions to help middle-class families save more for college. (HB16-1003, killed in Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs)
- Discourage large corporations in Colorado from paying low wages that force employees to rely on Medicaid. The Corporate Responsibility Act would end an unfair competitive advantage to large corporations that are paying poverty wages and forcing the taxpayers of Colorado to pick up the check. (HB16-1435, killed in Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs)
Providing a Quality Education to All Colorado Kids
Every Coloradan deserves access to a high-quality education, from preschool through post-secondary and beyond. We are continuing our work to expand funding for Colorado schools and ensure that our education and workforce programs are preparing students for jobs of the future.
- School Finance Act (HB16-1422) Rep. Hamner Does what many thought was impossible in this very tight budget year: it expands funding for K-12 schools and holds the negative factor at last year’s level. The bill also establishes a new $1 million grant program for rural school districts who are dealing with the negative factor for the first time. The bill also manages to reach a compromise on many charter school issues that have been contentious this session. (Headed to the Governor to be signed)
- Employee Leave Attend Child’s Academic Activities (HB16-1002) Rep. Buckner Allows unpaid leave for parents to attend academic activities for a child in K-12. Also expands the types of activities for which a parent is entitled to leave from work. (Killed in Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs)
- Using Multiple Measures of Student Academic Growth (HB16-1016) Rep. Young Creates a grant program to assist local education providers in creating and applying multiple measures of student academic growth. Grants will be used by LEPs to develop multiple ways to measure student academic growth in addition to summative statewide assessments, and to make recommendations to the State Board of Education and the General Assembly on including the measures as performance indicators in the state’s public education accountability system. (Killed in Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs)
- Incentives for Student Success (HB16-1289) Reps. Esgar & Duran Creates a pilot program wherein school districts receive a $1,000 bonus for each high school student who (1) earns an industry certification tied to an in-demand job, (2) finishes a rigorous workplace training program tied to key industry needs, or (3) successfully completes a computer science AP course. (Headed to the Governor to be signed)
Protecting our Environment and Natural Resources
Here in Colorado, we must do our fair share to preserve our world-renowned Colorado quality of life – by continuing our commitment to renewable energy and conservation.
- Measurable Goals in State Climate Action Plan HB16-1004 Reps. Winter & Arndt Requires the state’s climate action plan to include measurable goals to reduce Colorado’s greenhouse gas emissions. The governor will make an annual report on the progress to meet the goals. This crucial step will help Colorado do its fair share to combat climate change and push our state to be a leader in environmental protection. (Passed the House, killed in Senate Agriculture)
- Rain Barrels (HB16-1005) Reps. Danielson & Esgar Allows residents to store the rain off their roof in up to two 55-gallon rain barrels for use on gardens and lawns. Since 97 percent of the water that falls on a residential lot never makes it to a river or stream system, collecting rainwater does not threaten downstream water users. Colorado is the only state where this common-sense conservation measure is currently prohibited. (Headed to the Governor to be signed into law)
- The implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan began this session. Ag Protection Water Right Transfer Mechanism (HB16-1228, Arndt), Application of State Water Law to Federal Agencies (HB16-1109, Becker K.), and Manage Forests to Improve Water Supply Conditions (HB16-1255, Rep. Vigil) all received bipartisan support and are headed to the Governor to be signed into law.
The objective is to eliminate a projected annual water deficit of 182 billion gallons due to a Colorado population expected to nearly double by 2050. The plan emphasizes conservation, including the first-ever conservation targets for cities and towns. It also proposes expanded water storage capability as part of a multi-pronged approach to meet the needs of agriculture, our robust recreation economy and growing cities while honoring our state’s compact or treaty obligations to 24 downstream states in the United States and Mexico.
- Recognition of Public Lands Day (SB16-021) Reps. Mitsch Bush & Becker K. Designates an annual “Public Lands Day” to celebrate all the ways that public lands contribute to Coloradans’ well-being. (Headed to the Governor to be signed into law)
Fighting for Women’s Access to Health Care and Reproductive Rights
House Democrats continued to fight for women’s access to health care and reproductive rights. We passed the following legislation with bipartisan support.
- HB16-1438 Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, Rep. Winter The bill ensures that employers make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. It is designed to ensure that no pregnant woman has to choose between a healthy pregnancy and her paycheck. When women are pushed out of the workplace because of pregnancy-related conditions, they lose income, economic security and benefits, including health insurance, at the time when they are most in need of their wages and benefits. Examples of reasonable accommodations include more frequent bathroom breaks, access to a water bottle, seating and, if available, transfer to a lighter duty position. (Passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support, headed to the Governor to be signed into law)
- LARC Funding in the Budget The budget secured $2.5 million for family planning services across the state including LARC programs. The funds go toward educational programs and the purchase and supply of IUDs.
However, several of the bills we passed with bipartisan support in the House were killed by Senate Republicans.
- HB16-1294, Contraceptive Equity, Reps. Lontine & Esgar Would have improved women’s access to the best contraceptive method according to their individual health needs. It would have clarified that under the Affordable Care Act, Colorado women have access to the full range of contraceptive drugs and devices approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration with no copays, not just what the insurer dictates. (Passed the House with bipartisan support, killed in Senate State Affairs)
- HB16-1381 Health Care Coverage for Cancer Screening, Rep. Primavera Would have ensured health insurance coverage of any breast cancer screening that a doctor deems appropriate for the individual’s health needs. Often the initial mammogram is the only screening covered, and that can’t always catch what’s needed. (Passed the House with bipartisan support, killed in Senate State Affairs)
- HB16-1322 12-Month Contraception Supply, Rep. Pettersen Would have given women access to 12 months of contraception at once. When women have access to reliable birth control, they can plan their pregnancies, take care of their health, and continue to pursue their goals. (Passed the House with a Republican sponsor and bipartisan support, killed in Senate State Affairs)
House Democrats stood together to defeat five different attacks on a woman’s health and reproductive rights.
- HB16-1203 Women’s Health Protection Act, Rep. Neville The so-called “Women’s Health Protection Act” would have placed excessively high fees and impossible regulations on clinics that provide women access to their constitutional right to abortion. It was designed to shut down abortion providers in Colorado. (Killed in House Health, Insurance & Environment, where all our Reps. are women)
- HB16-1007 Offenses Against Unborn Children, Rep. Joshi Would have expanded legal personhood to fertilized eggs. (Killed in House Business)
- HB16-1113 Protect Human Life At Conception, Rep. Humphrey Would have banned all abortions in Colorado, except when a woman’s life is at risk, and changed the definition of pregnancy from implantation to fertilization. There was no exception for rape or incest. (Killed in House Health, Insurance & Environment)
- HB16-1218 A Woman’s Right to Accurate Health Care Info, Reps. Saine & Neville Would have required invasive and unnecessary ultrasounds and waiting periods before abortions. (Killed in House Health, Insurance & Environment)