Not even 48 hours after the Colorado legislative session ended, Governor John Hickenlooper began floating the idea of convening a special legislative session to strike up the band again over a hotly debated budget issue. The drum beat has continued all over the state in the press, with pressure from hundreds of special interest groups who didn’t get their way during the normal 120-day session. All this hullabaloo came after the Senate Finance Committee, in the normal course of legislative process, voted down a bill for the second year in a row to move the $750 million hospital provider fee into a separate enterprise fund.
Proponents repeatedly belt out that this enterprise is crucial to fund roads and schools. Here is the reality: our state budget has enough money to fund transportation and education. So then what is the real budget issue here?
The elephant in the room is Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Since Obamacare passed, Colorado’s Medicaid rolls have more than doubled–including a large addition of able-bodied, childless adults – and it’s only going to get worse. Enterprising the fee will not fix the fact that our state elected officials opted into Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, burdening our taxpayers and syphoning funds from the budget. Currently, 1 in 4 Coloradans are on Medicaid, when just six years ago it was 1 in 10. This move has aided in pushing our state budget spending on healthcare to well over 30%.
Since 2009 – when our elected officials passed the hospital provider fee – its ‘revenue’ has gone from $300 million to $750 million, while the state budget has gone from $19 billion to $27 billion, jumping a staggering 42%. All this has occurred during a time when the average worker’s wages in Colorado have only gone up by 14.5%.
As you can see, government is not hurting for money. Instead, it is elected officials who have chosen to shift money away from transportation and education. Now, they want to take away Coloradans’ Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) refunds in order to bailout Obamacare. What makes it worse, the Governor wants to do an end-run around TABOR and pass this budget gimmick without asking the voters. He apparently doesn’t trust Coloradans to make an informed decision about what is best for the state.
Amidst the noise, Senate President Bill Cadman and other members of his caucus have been voices of reason throughout this debate, standing up to the large coalition of special interest groups pressuring the legislature for more money. Time and time again, he has pointed out that Medicaid expansion is unsustainable, and that budget gimmicks aren’t going to fix our long-term financial problems. We are fortunate to have elected officials, like Cadman, that are willing to focus on what is best for our state in the long run.
So, as Coloradans continue to hear about a possible special session in the upcoming weeks they should remember: Governor Hickenlooper would be spending tens of thousands of their dollars to pass legislation to take away even more of our money. Coloradans should say, “thanks, but no thanks” to a special session to bail out Obamacare.
Tamra Farah is the Communications Director for Americans for Prosperity-Colorado, the largest free-market grassroots organization in the state with five field offices and over 127,000 Colorado activists.