A Budget Fix, a Rural Hospital Rescue

(May 10) – The House gave strongly bipartisan final passage today to a measure to save hospitals from devastating budget cuts and dedicate new funding to motorists, public school students, small businesses and seniors.

The vote was 49-16, with 12 Republicans joining the united Democratic caucus in support of the bill.

SB17-267, the climactic bill of the session and the culmination of many years of work, makes major adjustments in the state’s funding formula. It 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. It also launches $1.8 billion in certificates of participation (similar to bonds) to mend and expand Colorado’s dilapidated transportation system; directs $30 million to rural schools; and saves Colorado small businesses $21 million in business personal property taxes.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done,” Majority Leader KC Becker told the House. “I’m proud that this solves real problems for the people of Colorado: rural, urban, suburban, young, old, sick, healthy.”

SB17-267, which is sponsored in the House by Majority Leader Becker, D-Boulder, and Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, repeals the state’s hospital provider fee, which draws federal matching funds to defray hospitals’ unreimbursed costs for treating indigent or uninsured patients, then reconstitutes the hospital provider fee as a state enterprise, still drawing the federal match but exempt from the state’s Referendum C revenue cap.

Some of the Ref C cap headroom freed up by the hospital provider fee shift will be used to reduce the cap by $200 million. The bill 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; increases copayments from Medicaid patients for pharmacy services and hospital outpatient services; and increases state taxes on recreational marijuana from 12.9 percent to 15 percent.

“The best work we do in this building is when we come together and we find common ground and we compromise and find the best solutions possible,” Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, told the House. “Your vote today is a vote telling Colorado, ‘We’re here for you and we want to make your lives better.’ ”

“SB267 is an example of what is possible when we challenge ourselves and we continue to figure out how can we collaborate to problem-solve and make sure that we always put Coloradans first,” Speaker Crisanta Duran told the chamber. “It is not a long-term solution, but it is a meaningful step, and many Coloradans are going to win today with the passage of this bill.”

On the final day of the legislative session, SB17-267 is going to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk to be signed into law.


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