Mar 3, 2017

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Legislative Update: March 3, 2017

by | Mar 3, 2017

Bill to Watch: HB 1187
In Colorado, the constitutional amendment commonly known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (or TABOR) makes it nearly impossible to inject new funding for essentials such as health care, roads and affordable housing. Not only is the amendment a perennial source of frustration for legislators working to balance a state budget that meets the needs of their constituents, but TABOR’s budgetary constraints hurt low-income (and indeed, all) Coloradans.

House Bill 1187, sponsored by Rep. Dan Thurlow, R-Grand Junction, would bring to voters a rational if not comprehensive fix to the spending constraints imposed by TABOR. The legislation refers a proposition to Colorado voters to change the methodology for computing state revenues cap for fiscal year 2017-18 and all subsequent years.

If approved by voters in the November, 2017 election, the measure would allow the annual adjustment in the state revenue caps to be based on the average of the annual change in Colorado personal income over the previous five years, rather than adjusting for inflation and population. Although the state would still be issuing TABOR refunds during the next two fiscal years, the measure would decrease the state’s refund obligation by an estimated $132 million in fiscal year 2017-18 and by $209 million in fiscal year 2018-19.

Tying the growth in state budget to the growth of personal income instead of population and the Consumer Price Index makes sense. The CPI measures a basket of consumer goods, while personal income growth reflects salaries. The cost of consumer goods doesn’t reflect increases in the state’s cost of providing services or purchasing equipment. In addition, health care costs have long grown faster than the average basket of goods.

While HB 1187 would not eliminate TABOR refunds or address revenue shortfalls, it would reduce the size of refunds during a period in which the state is not adequately addressing the needs of its residents. The bill was approved by the House Finance Committee by a vote of 10-3. CCLP supports the legislation.

On the Radar
Two bills developed by CCLP advanced in the Colorado legislature this week.

On Monday, the House Finance Committee approved HB 1002 by a vote of 12-1. The bill, which now goes to the House Appropriations Committee, would extend the child care tax credit for workers earning less than $25,000 for three more income tax years. If signed into law, this measure would help Colorado’s low-income parents with young children afford child care and help them stay in the workforce.

After winning approval from the House, another CCLP-backed bill, HB 1143 cleared its first hurdle in the Senate on Wednesday with a 5-0 vote from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Sponsored by Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, and Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, HB 1143 would direct the state to audit Medicaid communications with clients. These audits would review Medicaid notices for legal sufficiency, clarity and accuracy. Audit findings, conclusions and recommendations will be presented to legislative committees, which can then consider whether the results warrant further reforms.

The bill is part of a package intended to address shortcomings in client correspondence and notifications when Medicaid benefits are about to be changed or terminated. The package was developed by CCLP and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition during last summer’s Interim Committee on Medicaid Client Correspondence.

– By Bob Mook

 

Recent articles

CCLP Statement on Health and Hospital Corporation v. Talevski

Last term, we watched as the Supreme Court issued rulings that had wide sweeping consequences for individuals across the country. The Court tipped its hat to the second amendment by expanding the ability to carry guns in public while simultaneously decimating the...

New Public Charge Rule is a Victory for Immigrant Communities

Some immigrants who apply for a green card or a visa to enter the United States must pass what’s called a “public charge” test. The test is designed to evaluate whether the person will primarily depend on the government for support in the future, based on factors such...