This week kicked off with the new governor submitting his legislative proposal to the Joint Budget Committee which spurred his relatively vague campaign to cut a number of corporate tax breaks in an effort to lower income taxes. This effort adds to the list of his administration’s priorities which includes state funding for full day kindergarten, addressing energy issues, and lowering the cost of healthcare. For the most part, the legislature agrees with him; but it’s not just the Democrats. While majorly impactful bills are being released almost every day, the session’s slow start is making room for unexpected alliances under the Golden Dome.
Tax Policy Changes
Just after Gov. Jared Polis (D) celebrated Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) and Rep. Rod Pelton (R-Cheyenne Wells) on Twitter about their bill to lower the income tax, he called upon both for help to achieve a lower rate than their proposed 4.49%. This drew ire from groups concerned with the current state of Colorado’s budget like the Colorado Fiscal Institute and others who seek additional dollars for much needed infrastructure and education investments.
Democrats in the House and Senate have their own ideas, simply coming from a place that more money is better than less. There are rumors that a TABOR time-out might be in the works or that TABOR revenues above the cap need to be earmarked in order to make P-12 education, higher education, transportation and capital maintenance investments a reality.
Education and Full Day Kindergarten
There are still no bills that explicitly call for full day kindergarten, but the governor’s budget did ask the Joint Budget Committee to set aside $227 million for that purpose. For the past six years, this has been a major priority for Rep. Jim Wilson (R-Salida); on the campaign trail, Polis often lauded his efforts. While Rep. Wilson has always served in the minority he is a member known for working well with Democrats. If this idea makes it across the finish line, this will be both a win for the governor and for Rep. Wilson who is a former school superintendent. This could serve as another example of the new governor embracing Republican proposals to move forward a campaign promise he calls, “Colorado for All.”
Oil and Gas and Energy
Only hours after Supreme Court’s Martinez ruling Monday in favor of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) regarding what they must weigh when determining whether to issue drilling permits, Gov. Polis’ new Colorado Energy Office (CEO) director unveiled the administration’s new goals for reducing the emissions that come from oil and gas wells and other sources.
Will Toor, Director of CEO, presented to the House Energy and Environment Committee sharing the governor’s priorities.
While CEO does not have any regulatory authority over oil and gas, it is clear that the office’s aim will be to be less reliant on traditional energy. Directives from the administration will guide the department to aid in the transition to a 100 percent renewable-energy grid by 2040, to dramatically reduce methane emissions, and to increase other energy efficiencies across the state.
We can expect that CEO will take a stronger role in increasing the electrification of the transportation system by promoting zero-emissions vehicles and easing Colorado away from having cars with internal-combustion engines powered by oil and gas.
There are no legislative proposals that deal with oil and gas regulation at this time.
Healthcare Cost Savings
A significant number of the bills heard and introduced this week dealt with healthcare. Members in the House Health, Insurance and Environment committee voted on a bill that allows for more state oversight of hospital costs and a bill the licenses Free Standing Emergency Departments (FSEDs). Both aim to reduce the cost of healthcare and are being run alongside other robust measures like the drug importation program which could eventually authorize pharmaceutical drugs to be re-imported through Canada. More bills addressing the cost of health care are expected in the coming weeks and this will be a major focus of the new administration. This is especially true given that the newest Department, “The Department of Saving People Money on Healthcare,” is headed up by the new Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera, a former state representative, patient advocate and cancer survivor.
None of her proposals have been made public yet and it’s likely, that she, the governor, and the leaders at the legislature will be releasing bills more swiftly in the coming weeks.
Until then we stand waiting in our anticipatory frenzy…
Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale) officially changes his title from Representative to Senator this coming week. His replacement in the House still has not been named. That "To-Be-Determined" member should be the last new member of this year's class of first-year legislators.