COLORADO LEGISLATIVE SERVICES, LLC
What was expected to be a contentious week debating the budget, the omnibus oil and gas bill, and the red flag gun bill was arguably collegial in both chambers. Republicans in the Colorado Senate set a celebratory tone by amending the $30 billion state budget with a transportation deal brokered between the Senate Majority Leader and Minority Leader.
Since last year, leaders have been pushing for more money to buy down the state’s $9 billion obligation to transportation; but after the election, the Democrats’ priorities shifted. Holding the House, Senate and Governor’s office (the “trifecta”), meant that they could instead focus on a myriad of progressive issues and promises made on the campaign trail, in lieu of focusing solely on their past commitments to help the state’s crumbling infrastructure; a criticism routinely cast by the GOP.
Thursday during debate on the long appropriations bill, Republicans were successful in getting a total of 336 million one-time dollars into the Highway Users Trust Fund. This trade was made to end the tactics employed by the minority party to slow work down on the floor. But that extra money remains an uncertainty. The House still has a chance to amend the long bill when they debate it next week and the $106 million that was added in addition to the $200 million already included in the budget for transportation means that cuts need to be made elsewhere.
Lobbyists and interest groups are wondering which programs will face cuts in order to pay for this additional spending and if the House will hold with the agreement made in the Senate. As it stands, state employees are expecting a 3 percent pay raise, higher education institutions are expecting a 13 bump to hold tuition flat and the k-12 education is receiving $77 million to buy down the negative factor on top of the additional $185 million for full-day kindergarten.
Sorting this out likely means that tensions will remain high. Plus, next week, the legislature will take up the death penalty bill, a so-called reinsurance bill which Colorado hospitals may have to pay for, the state run family medical leave insurance bill expected to grow state government by $1 billion. Wild cards (as they relate to timing) are the number of yet-to-be-introduced bills like the pharmaceutical transparency bill and a bill that would allow local governments to implement rent control. Rumors are also circulating about a bill to reinstate a certificate of need requirement before the construction of a new health-care facilities and a bill to re-write the state's laws on the only unsubsidized affordable housing.
With all of this potentially in play, it’s no wonder that working weekends has been a threat from leadership. As of today, only five weeks of session remain and there is no sign of anything slowing down.