Under the Dome: An intense month at the Capitol
Under the Dome
This month is intense at the Capitol. My Joint Budget Committee is approving hundreds of individual line items for next year’s budget and will present the budget to the General Assembly in two weeks. I’m working on a bill for Internet-delivered content in schools, sponsoring a joint effort to investigate K-12 finances, and working with county commissioners and other legislators on a remedy for the outrageous private health insurance rates on the Western Slope. In between, I’m presenting several bills from the Joint Budget Committee that fine-tune the operations of the state departments.
One of my favorite happenings at the Capitol is to have visitors from the district. Joyce and I both look forward to upcoming visits from our high school interns in the next few weeks. We’re getting great reports every Friday from all four of them that help me stay in touch with the district.
The Hospital Provider Fee (HPF) conversion to an enterprise is still the hot political item of the session, with lawyers disagreeing on its constitutionality. I’ve written about this before, and I’ve been somewhat ambivalent about whether the HPF should be converted to an enterprise and thereby create room within the TABOR limit for the state to spend more money. If the enterprise is not created, taxpayers would get a refund when revenues exceed the limit, but state spending would be curtailed.
There’s no doubt that Colorado and in fact most states should be spending more on infrastructure; roads, education and telecommunications. But in Colorado, in addition to TABOR tax and spending limits, we’ve made promises in previous legislative sessions that are now very expensive. The state has expanded human services and medical coverage, primarily Medicaid, much faster than other spending. We’re now finding it impossible to fund all of our other needs largely as a result of those promises. When TABOR was amended into the constitution, no one foresaw the coming massive expansion of federal and state programs directed to health care. We simply have no funding mechanism separate from the state’s TABOR limit to pay the state share. The HPF is a part of that growth but not the only part.
Is the expansion of health care spending to be considered part of the growth of state government that TABOR sought to control even though it did not exist as a major component of spending at that time? The state should have created a new funding mechanism and sought voter approval if required by the constitution at the time we took on new obligations. Now we have political and philosophical battles under way.
There will probably be a bill this year to create an enterprise fund for the HPF. There will also be a number of initiatives on the ballot this fall that ask for remedies to the spending limit and even one to further expand state-funded health care. I’m sure state office candidates will be talking about these issues at campaign rallies and town halls.
As always, I invite your views and opinions. I’m getting a lot of mail on specific bills and it helps. By the way, I voted for the rain barrel bill.
“Under the Dome” appears on the second Tuesday of the month. State Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, is in his second term in the state Legislature representing House District 57, which includes Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
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