iStock-668473974-1024x683.jpg

Ernest LuningErnest LuningJune 26, 20178min92

A group of liberal advocacy organizations for the first time released combined legislative scorecards this week, conglomerating assessments of the 100 Colorado lawmakers’ votes last session on key legislation the organizations said they plan to present to voters next year. A Republican who received among the lowest overall scores, however, dismissed the endeavor as a “political stunt” and told Colorado Politics he doubts the predictable rankings — Democrats good, Republicans bad — give voters any meaningful information.


mansion-925.jpg

Peter MarcusApril 11, 20176min55
The $26.8 billion state budget has passed both chambers, but it is out of balance without further action by the legislature. When the House on Monday passed the annual spending plan on a vote of 38-27, with the majority of Republicans opposing the so-called “Long Bill,” it delayed passage of a handful of “orbital” bills that […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe


Screen-Shot-2016-03-23-at-4.29.32-AM-e1466308207731.png

Paula NoonanPaula NoonanApril 7, 20175min770
Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Colorado’s population in 1992 was 3.5 million. Census projections put the state’s population in 2017 at 5.5 million. In 1992, 812,308 citizens — 53.68 percent of voters — said yes to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), and 700,906 citizens — 46.32 percent of voters — said no.

Not to make too fine a point, but the 1.5 million 1992 voters on TABOR would comprise 27 percent of today’s population. And many of those 1.5 million people are no longer living in Colorado. Yet here we are, 25 years later, juggling TABOR limitations at the Capitol.

As background, the state in 1992 was in a deep recession from the oil and real estate bust of the 1980s. Front Range citizens especially were in an economic pit.

Downtown Denver was a dump: no Coors Field, no Pepsi Center, no new Mile High Stadium, no new Auraria Campus, no lightrail, no fancy Union Station, no pedestrian bridge over to the Highlands, no condos in LoDo or RiNo, downtown shopping fleeing to the suburbs, and prominent Denver retail names gone bankrupt.

Colorado Springs was hit hard as its real estate expansion of the ’80s died. Banks were on the brink of going out of business across the state.

After the anti-tax 1992 TABOR vote, Denver metro citizens did a 180-degree reverse and voted to build Denver International Airport. Then citizens voted for Coors Field and Mile High Stadium. With help from Gov. Bill Owens, RTD got a tax for light rail.

These investments set the stage for Colorado’s current economic vibrancy. The investments occurred based on a good feature of TABOR — let the people decide what projects and programs merit their money. Yet TABOR’s bad features, still in place, are wreaking havoc on the state’s budget.

Senator Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, was among five legislators who voted against SB-254, the budget appropriations Long Bill. He’s asking people to take a long view back and forward: “It’s a vote to raise the TABOR issue once again. We’re not funding our schools, oil and gas inspectors, renewable energy, or filling in gaps from cuts from D.C.”

It’s esoteric for newcomers to know that Colorado’s current budget is based on the 2009-2010 recession years due to TABOR. “Unlike other states, because of TABOR’s ratchet down effect, Colorado doesn’t get to make up for downturns and come back,” says Kerr.

When the state gins up more tax revenues, as it has, the budget base doesn’t move up. Its budget level continues at the 2009-2010 recession point, forcing refunds of extra tax dollars.

The Hospital Provider Reimbursement Fee portrays the problem. The health care fees, considered a tax, push state revenues above TABOR limits. The Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee put up SB17-256 to reduce provider fees by $264 million, which causes an additional $264 million loss in federal matching funds.

The provider fee reimburses hospitals for delivering care to people who can’t pay. Without the fee, some hospitals, particularly in rural counties, don’t have enough money to operate. When those hospitals close, uninsured and insured alike lose care.

Four Democratic Senators, Irene Aguilar, Kerry Donovan, Matt Jones and Andy Kerr, and Republican Sen. Owen Hill, voted against the budget Long Bill. Also affected by TABOR is the ongoing $880 million annual negative factor that lowers public K-12 education spending. House members get to vote next.

So the question is, when will today’s citizens get the chance to vote on tax policy for today?



Peter MarcusApril 6, 201711min91
Lawmakers in Colorado’s House attempted nearly 100 amendments to the state’s proposed $26.8 billion annual budget on Thursday. Much of the conversation is messaging in the Democratic-controlled House, as lawmakers know they aren’t going to see controversial partisan issues advance, across-the-board cuts to state agencies and mandatory investments in programs that would leave the budget out of […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe


everett.jpg

John TomasicJohn TomasicApril 6, 20172min841

House Rep. Justin Everett, a Littleton Republican and one of the caucus’s reliably hardliners, launched debate on budget bills proposing amendments that seek to make the point that there’s plenty of money in the $26.8 billion budget to support overdue transportation upgrades and expansion. House Republicans strongly oppose a plan backed by legislative leaders this year to raise sales taxes to pay for transportation development.


HickenlooperBudgetRST.jpg

Ramsey ScottRamsey ScottMay 5, 20167min60

The budget is signed but that doesn’t mean fighting over revenue has ended in the Legislature. During a budget singing in Gov. John Hickenlooper's office Tuesday, Senate Pres. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, and Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Gunbarrel, indicated that the potential of a hospital provider fee reclassification and a transportation bond bill passing were slim to none.


VickiMarbleOP-1024x884.jpg

Vickie MarbleJanuary 22, 20166min1801
State Sen. Vicki Marble calls out the Denver Post's use of "The dissident eight" reference as being misplaced.
State Sen. Vickie Marble

According to a recent front-page story in The Denver Post, there are eight Republican state senators among the slim 18-17 Republican majority who have been obstructing the Republican Party leadership’s legislative agenda. We are told this presents a “threat” to the Republican Party and a crisis that had gone undetected until The Post crunched some numbers.

What is this mushrooming threat? In the 2015 session of the General Assembly, eight Republican senators voted “no” from 11 percent to 24 percent of the time on 367 final, third-reading roll call votes, while Senate President Cadman voted no only 2 percent of the time.

Supposedly, voting “no” on that many bills shows disloyalty and disunity. By contrast, all 34 House Democrats vote together 99 percent of the time and are a model of party amity. We “dissident eight” are voting differently from our caucus leader about 10 times more often than Democrats in the House majority do. As The Post sees it, only good bills get voted out of committees and sent to the floor for consideration, so a “no” vote on any bill contributes to “stalemate.”

Wow.

The Post’s interpretation tells us more about its political agenda than how Republicans set policy priorities. Democrats in the House vote in lockstep 99 percent of the time and that is wonderful, and it is Senate Republicans who have a problem. Really? Eighteen Republicans from all four corners of the state are voting together only 80-90 percent of the time, and this is evidence of incipient insurrection?

This is laughable to every Republican in the Legislature and anyone who doesn’t live in the Denver cocoon. The Post has it backwards. What the Post’s numbers show is that Senate Republicans are ten times more likely than House Democrats to vote independently to better represent their constituents, their diverse districts and their convictions — in other words, to find principled solutions to real problems.

We might be alarmed if The Post’s numbers revealed a rebellion over top priorities or major legislation, but that is not the story here. The only specific legislation identified as victims of raging negativism were relatively minor bills, not major bills supported and enacted by the Republican controlled Senate — all of which passed on near-unanimous Republican votes.

The most important bill of the entire session, SB-234, the state budget “Long Bill,” recommended by a unanimous vote of the bipartisan Joint Budget Committee, passed the Senate with unanimous Republican support. All 14 “no” votes were by Democrats. Neither did The Post mention the numerous bipartisan accomplishments from last session supported by near-unanimous Republican votes — bills like making repeated DUI’s a felony, improvements in school safety, landmark reforms in urban renewal financing and a budget that respected the constitutional TABOR requirement for taxpayer rebates.

The Post’s numbers are based entirely on bills that passed by both chambers and were signed into law. Why not compare Republican-sponsored bills passed by the Senate and killed in a House kill committee to Democrat-sponsored bills passed in the House and killed in a Senate committee? Maybe The Post story doesn’t do that because that comparison would show Republican unity in opposing “the worst of the worst.”

All across the country, voters are rebelling against politics-as-usual and government by elites, where powerful leaders cut deals behind closed doors and everyone else is expected to fall into line. Republicans in Colorado don’t operate that way. Yet, to the media guardians of political correctness in Denver, a city where Democrats control every single state legislative district, lockstep partisan voting is heralded as the model of good government.

Now tell me: which party has a problem and who has a finger on the voters’ pulse?

State Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, represents Senate District 23, including parts of Larimer, Weld and Broomfield counties. She chairs the Senate Republican caucus and the Senate Local Government Committee and is a member of the Senate Education Committee and the Legislative Council.