Committee OKs Bill to Avert Budget Crisis

(April 30) – The House Health, Insurance & Environment Committee gave its approval this afternoon to Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst’s bill to allow the state government to continue to provide adequate services to a growing and increasingly prosperous Colorado.

HB15-1389, sponsored by the speaker and Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, would turn the state’s hospital provider fee into a state enterprise, exempting it from the state revenue limits written into the Colorado constitution by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

“If we do nothing, critical funding for needed transportation projects across our state will drop to zero next year, and we will begin again the harmful cycle of slashing other key budget areas projected to total hundreds of millions of dollars,” Speaker Hullinghorst told the committee.

Correcting what the speaker described as “an accounting error written into state statute in 2009” would give the hospital provider fee, launched during the Bill Ritter administration, the same enterprise status already granted to nearly two dozen state operations, including the higher education, transportation and parks systems and the state lottery. Not a single Colorado taxpayer would pay a penny more in taxes.

Without this bill, additional state spending will be essentially frozen under the TABOR cap. But by exempting the hospital provider fee from the TABOR limit, state revenue subject to TABOR would decrease by $723 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year. The state would be able to increase its investment in roads and bridges by at least $219 million and capital construction by at least $55 million, with further significant investments in other high-priority areas like K-12 schools, higher education and medical services.

“Long-term fiscal health for our state – that’s what this is about,” Rep. Court told the committee before it voted 7-6 to send HB15-1389 to the Appropriations Committee.

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