May 05, 2009
I will be posting updates on my legislation this session as we are winding up the 2009 Legislative Session. But there are some other good, bipartisan bills that have passed this session that you may not have heard about in the press. Below are some examples:
SB 09-163 (Hudak & King – Middleton & Massey) Alignment of Education Standards. At long last we have aligned 3 different accountability standards for schools, saving time and money and increasing efficiency within our schools.
HB 09-1039 (McNulty – Kopp) – In State Tuition Military Veterans. This bill gives In State Tuition for military veterans taking higher education courses or seeking a degree.
HB 09-1102 (Acree – Scheffel) – Health Insurance Portability. This bill sets the path to study health insurance portability in the state of Colorado.
HB 09-1293 (Riesberg – Keller) – Healthcare Affordability Act. This bill uses a hospital provider fee mechanism (not passed on to patient) to draw down federal Medicaid funds which can be used to increase rural access to health care, increase providers in the system with improved provider rates, improved services and less
SB 09-94 (Williams) – Division of Transit. This bill creates a division of transit within the Department of Transportation to create a separate, distinct focus on public transportation, more broadly than just "highways"
HB 09-1310 (Heath) – Employee Misclassification – This bill prohibits the misclassification of employees as independent contractors which undermines legitimate employers and cuts off benefits for unemployment, workers compensation etc.
CHILDREN – PROTECTIVE
SB 09-164 (Newell) – Child Welfare Training – Arising out of the audit where several children had died under the Colorado foster care system, this bill provides the training that is recommended for best practices to reduce gaps in the system and improve delivery for the state's vulnerable children.
April 09, 2009
Today we reconvened as a caucus to review potential amendments from both sides of the aisle on the long bill (aka SB 09-259). The legislature finished reviewing, and at the direction of President Groff, the members of the JBC reconvened to further review options to avoid ending / eliminating $300 million.
We have gone just about as far as we can go without closing core functions of government for the people. Because we can not afford to dismiss any idea out of hand MANY ideas have surfaced on how to handle the short-term and long-term budget problems of the state:
- review of $1 billion in special interest tax exemptions / credits (examples include: (mail advertising, sales of precious metal bullion / coins, pesticide sales, bull semen etc.) — a move previously unavailable until the Colorado Supreme Court decision.
- review of enterprise zones: ~ $40 million, a recent audit suggests while some enterprise zone funding is used to create new jobs, others may not.
- de-coupling the state income tax base from the federal income tax base, freeing us of some tax loopholes the feds have approved that we may not want to inherit.
- Sale – Leaseback of state buildings: If there is a private market, the state could sell the buildings we own to a lender who allow us to lease them back. This raises revenue but means we are repaying for buildings we currently own.
- Bring a measure to convert to a progressive tax structure to the public for a vote.
- Sentencing reform: The Department of Corrections is one of the few departments continuing to grow even in this budget-cutting environment. 74% of our inmates are in custody for non-violent offenses and we incarcerate at a higher rate than most states and more than other countries.
April 08, 2009
Colorado's budget bill (SB 09-259) was introduced Monday. In significant part it includes the following:
- $300 million in cuts to higher education, essentially closing or privatizing access to higher ed
- $125 million in cuts from K-12 education
- Eliminates the expansion of preschool and full-day kindergarten
- Freezes capital construction
- Freezes salaries of all state employees
- Eliminates pay for performance incentives
- (Temporary) Eliminates the Senior Homestead tax exemption
- Using 1/2 of statutory reserves
- Closing Women's Correctional Facility
- Delay opening of 2nd CSP II Prison
- Cash Fund Transfers
Each department has gone through 3 rounds of budget cuts.
A few different factors have conspired to leave Colorado in this position:
- Reduced revenue (economic downturn) – 10%;
- TABOR prohibits recovery from cuts or creation of rainy day fund;
- At 4.63%, Colorado has one of the lowest income tax rates in the country;
- Colorado and the nation are facing record unemployment rates, hurting tax revenue;
- Foreclosures and loss of jobs has meant an increased demand and need for government services.
Other Key Facts:
- Colorado has a balanced budget requirement.
- The $ 1billion + in necessary cuts is staggering % of the budget.
- We could close 16 of our state departments entirely and not balance the budget.
- Each department has gone through 3 rounds of budget cuts
- Furloughing all state employees would save us $1.3 million per day but even if all state workers took the whole year off we would lack sufficient funds to cover the $300 million shortfall we currently face in higher ed and of course it should shut the whole of state government services down for a year.
February 16, 2009
As most of you know we will be cutting more than $600 million retroactively from the current 08/09 budget and probably at least that much for the 09/10 budget.
The Joint Budget Committee has its own web page. On this page you can find staff memos, JBC actions and other information and details about our budget process. This includes some really good graphs and charts to help put it into perspective. Please distribute this to anyone you know with an interest in Colorado's budget.
Meanwhile this underscores the importance of acting quickly on economic development and job creation measures for the State of Colorado.
January 09, 2009
This week marks the beginning of the 2009 Legislative Session with the Swearing-In of newly elected officials, opening remarks of the Speaker, the Senate President, the Minority Leaders, the Governor and the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.
It's official. I'm now sworn in as the Senator of Senate District 29. I would like to take a moment to thank Sen. Bob Hagedorn, who has ably served this district before. He has added a powerful IQ, appetite for policy, and a much-needed sense of irreverance in a chamber that can have too much of it. He will be missed by many at the Capitol and in our district.
Opening Remarks can be an important part of setting the tone for the session. The themes of opening week:
- The economy is a very real problem that will force nearly $1 billion in cuts between last year and this.
- We are going to have to work together in a bi-partisan fashion to solve this.
- The key is jobs, education, and converting to a green energy economy.
There will be no pain-free way to make the necessary cuts to our budget. Clearly, we must start by identifying any potential cost-savings, revisiting any "incentives" that may in fact merely be corporate welfare. Even so, that will only get us a fraction of the way and we will have to cut important, good substantive programs that work and are socially necessary.
Colorado is faring better than much of the nation but remains in seriously critical shape. Gov. Ritter mentioned that he is working with the Obama administration. The federal stimulus package, may be the only way that transportation funding happens, or that the hiring freeze can be lifted.
Please know that you are always welcome at the Capitol and to join my townhall meetings!
<< Newer Posts | Older Posts >>