Capitol will be closed on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Day
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Highlights of the Week
On Thursday, Governor Polis signed an executive order containing directives to create a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Program, to use Volkswagen settlement dollars to electrify the state’s fleet of vehicles, to form a Transportation Electrification Workgroup, and to develop a clean transportation plan. Under the Executive Order, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is required to develop a ZEV Program and propose the rule to the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) by no later than May 2019. The ZEV directive follows AQCC action last Fall when Governor Hickenlooper’s administration and the AQCC established a Low Emissions Vehicle rule to create more strict emissions standards. The other major piece of the Executive Order is to use remaining funds from the Volkswagen Settlement to electrify transit buses, school buses, and trucks.
Speaker Becker announced on Thursday in front of a group of business leaders at a Colorado Chamber event an idea to ask voters to allow state government to retain revenue above the TABOR revenue cap in perpetuity for spending on transportation, K-12 education, higher education, and controlled maintenance. Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) provision limits revenue growth each year to population plus inflation growth, which creates a revenue cap, and also requires tax increases to be approved by the voters affected. In years when revenue is collected above the TABOR limit, it is refunded to taxpayers. Speaker Becker’s idea is similar to efforts that local governments have taken to ease this revenue restriction. Many local governments have successfully “de-bruced” by getting approval from voters to let the local government spend revenue that it collects above the TABOR limit. With large TABOR surpluses predicted for FY2018-19 and FY2019-20, Speaker Becker’s idea is estimated to provide an additional $1 billion over these two years. While no measure has been drafted yet, the barrier would likely not be at the state legislature where a simple majority in each chamber is all that is required to refer the measure to voters, and it would not require the Governor’s signature. It is uncertain what voters would think of this statewide ballot question, but a similar measure to take a temporary time out on the TABOR cap passed in 2005. Ballot questions to retain already collected revenue have generally fared well across the state at the local level. Any measure to change TABOR on the state level would likely face significant organized opposition and some will feel it should do more for underfunded transportation, higher education, and K-12 school funding.
On Wednesday, Governor Polis presented his budget request to the Joint Budget Committee (JBC), providing more details on his plans for funding full day kindergarten, lowering the cost of health care, and helping families in rural areas. The December 2018 Revenue Forecast predicted an increase in the local share of education funding. Governor Polis’s budget uses the roughly $274 million of freed up state dollars that would have gone to the state share of education funding to fund free all-day kindergarten. Because the change comes from property taxes, a relatively reliable and stable source of revenue compared to sales taxes, he said that this was an appropriate way to fund full day kindergarten in future years. Under his proposal, districts would not be required to offer full day kindergarten, but if districts chose to offer it, then the state would be able to provide the funding necessary. His proposal contains:
- $227 million for free full day kindergarten plus $25.7 million to help with implementation
- $1.3 million set aside for a Canadian prescription drug importation program
- $1.1 million set aside for a reinsurance program
- Continuation of Hickenlooper’s $121 million request to hold tuition flat at higher education institutions
- $3 million for paid parental leave for state employees
- $1.5 million to expand dual and concurrent enrollment across the state
- Continuation of $6.5 million for teacher loan forgiveness and incentives
- $246,000 to create an Office of Saving People Money on Health Care
HB19-1001, sponsored by Representative Kennedy, passed the House Health and Insurance Committee on Wednesday. The bill would require hospitals to submit financial information related to uncompensated care and expenditures. Several amendments were added to the bill that aim to protect hospitals’ proprietary information, clarifying the reporting timeline so that hospitals would report annually, and providing an alternative to the audited financial statement for multi-state hospitals. Several clean up and clarifying amendments were added as well. Now the bill moves to the House floor for debate on Second Reading.
Bills of the Week