Last night, the state legislature bid adieu to the 2017 legislative session. As is our tradition, we have highlighted our winners and losers of the legislative session. Because we are an optimistic bunch, we will start with the winners. Without further delay, here are our 2017 winners:
Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and the Hospital Provider Fee. Sen. Sonnenberg, an advocate for rural Colorado, struck a deal with Democrats to save rural hospitals – and got a decent compromise from Democrats in the process. The deal is that the hospital provider fee was moved out from under TABOR limits, but the limits were reduced from $600 to 700 million to $200 million. It’s a win for rural Colorado, which is still facing tough times.
Anyone lobbying for the alcohol industry this session. Legislation was a mixed bag. Applejack, CLBA, Wal-Mart all tried to get something this year and weren’t successful. Craft brewers had some wins and some losses, while others like wholesalers and Restaurant Association protected their interests. But either way – lobbyists on all sides of alcohol issues cleaned up.
Charter schools. A bill that equalizes funding will set the state’s wildly popular charter schools on par with the more traditional government schools by forcing an equal division of dollars collected by mil-levy increases. Since 2013, the state’s charter school enrollment has soared 30%, and demand still outstrips the supply of seats available in these high-performing academic environments. The bipartisan bill was sponsored by Democrats Rep. Rosenthal and Sen. Angela Williams as well Republicans Rep. Lang Sias and Sen. Owen Hill.
People who like cheap and reliable energy. Democrats threw all kinds of regulatory nonsense at the oil and gas industry this year – measures that would have potentially raised costs to develop energy here in Colorado as well as cost jobs and our tax revenue. Fortunately, common sense prevailed. That’s why a Democratic-controlled legislature is a bad, bad idea.
Colorado taxpayers. An attempt to place a $700 million transportation funding tax on the November 2017 ballot failed to gain the support in the legislature, in spite of sponsorship by leadership in both parties. But the truth of the matter is that even had this made the ballot via the legislature, the chances of it passing were slim. First, Colorado has passed almost no tax increases since TABOR was implemented. Second, polling showed this was a dog, taxpayers did not want a tax hike for transportation. They wanted the legislature to prioritize infrastructure spending above pet projects. Don’t worry, Colorado drivers are in the losers.