Under the Dome column: Colorado budget includes $28 billion in spending
Under the Dome
I’m afraid to start writing a column about state government this month. Can mundane details about only 600 legislative bills and a mere $28 billion of spending attract your interest? I worry that you, the dedicated readers of my monthly musings, are all focused not on Colorado’s issues but on the president’s latest tweet. How to keep you reading a whole 500 words when the TV is reporting about Russia, the Supreme Court and Syria and who knows what’s next?
Well, this should get your attention: $28 billion total spending by the state, comprising $12 billion from your Colorado sales and income tax, $7 billion from fees that you pay to the state, and $9 billion from your federal taxes. We just finished our yearly marathon of budget presentation, amendments and then amendments to the amendments to get the “Long Bill” through the Colorado Senate and House. As a Joint Budget Committee member, I represent 27 other house minority members who suddenly want to know what I’ve actually been doing across the street since last November. And then they want to change it. It may be weird, but I really do enjoy the process.
As of this writing we aren’t finished. We are still working on the two big issues of the budget year. The first is the Hospital Provider Fee. Since the revenue from this “fee” is under the TABOR spending cap, we’ve put a restriction on its size this year and that action will reduce revenue to our hospitals. The rural hospitals that I represent are truly in trouble and are not happy. The second issue is an ongoing debate as to how we should fund our transportation needs. A bill in circulation would ask the voters to approve a sales tax increase. Some in the Legislature believe we can fund payments for a large bond by cutting back spending from current programs.
And on top of our current budget problems, uncertainty looms. What will the new administration do with health-care reform? Block grants for Medicaid will put a tremendous decision-making and management burden on the state. Since we are a Medicaid expansion state, we now have a lot more people dependent on Medicaid services. And changes in areas other than health care will no doubt provide opportunity as well as difficulties.
I’ll be introducing my favorite bill of the year this week. Representative Hamner and I have been working for several years with a bipartisan informal coalition to put a process in place that will allow all of the pieces of our statewide education institution to work together to define and communicate a vision for what Colorado education should be in the future. We intend to shift the dialogue, with legislative leadership, from one that includes only the need for more funding to a visionary strategy that can be the pride of all of Colorado.
I’m still working on other bills and collecting signing pens from the governor. Thanks to all of House District 57 for the opportunity to serve you.
“Under the Dome” appears on the second Tuesday of the month. State Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, is in his third term in the state Legislature representing House District 57, which includes Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.