Slashing the ‘Fiscal Thicket’

(April 29) – A bill to give the state government some breathing room to deliver services to a growing and increasingly prosperous Colorado was introduced this afternoon.

HB15-1389, sponsored by Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst 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.

The bill makes only a technical change. No one’s taxes will increase. But if the hospital provider fee, which is estimated to total $689 million in the fiscal year that begins in July, were exempt from the TABOR limit, the state would be able to increase its investment in high-priority areas like schools, medical services and roads and bridges.

The proposal has been under discussion for months, but was pushed onto the fast track by an April 16 letter from Gov. John Hickenlooper to the leaders of the four caucuses in the General Assembly.

“With each passing month the people of Colorado are going deeper into the ‘fiscal thicket’ that Governor Hickenlooper spoke of in his State of the State speech in January,” Speaker Hullinghorst said. “And the farther we go into the thicket, the denser it gets, the harder it gets for us to move forward.”

“It is highly likely that Colorado’s economy will continue to grow,” the speaker continued. “But unless we pass this bill, next year we will have a budget crisis. We will face deep cuts to essential state services like education, transportation and health care for the most vulnerable Coloradans. This makes no sense to anyone. In a growing economy, we should be investing in our state, not slashing our budget to ribbons.”

“Making the hospital provider fee an enterprise gives us much-needed room to operate and ensures that we can support Colorado’s continued economic success and help spread the recovery all across the state,” Speaker Hullinghorst said. “I hope that my friends across the aisle pick up the baton and do the right thing for Colorado.”

The bill was assigned to the House Health, Insurance & Environment Committee.

“We have worked in a bipartisan way to pass a budget this year,” Rep. Court said. “We want to set the foundation for budget stability in future years in a way that preserves refunds to taxpayers but also funds infrastructure and schools. Making a simple fix to the hospital provider fee does that, which is why this measure is supported by the business community, education advocates, health care providers, and just about anyone who wants Colorado’s government to be able to meet the needs of its people.”

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