Guv ponders special session
Transportation one of 4 issues he's unhappy with
DENVER — Even though he called the 2017 session of the Colorado Legislature the most productive since being in office, Gov. John Hickenlooper still is considering convening a special session as early as later this month.
In comments to the media Thursday, the day after the session ended, the governor said he was disappointed in the amount of money the Legislature found for transportation, that several health care bills he favored didn’t get approved, the Colorado Energy Office wasn’t continued, and broadband for rural areas of the state wasn’t addressed adequately.
The governor said he would take the weekend to decide if there would be any possibility that lawmakers would change their minds on any of those issues, and whether it would be worth spending taxpayer dollars in bringing lawmakers back to the golden dome.
“Overall, it is the best, most productive session of the seven sessions I’ve been here for,” Hickenlooper said.
“We’re going to look at everything (in deciding). Obviously, transportation’s a big issue. We’re not even going to have enough money to fix I-25 north and south and I-70, let alone all the projects that have been identified across the state.”
Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, said it would be folly to call a special session, especially so soon after ending this year’s session on Wednesday.
Grantham said on each of the four issues Hickenlooper cited, there still is no consensus among lawmakers on making any more headway than lawmakers did.
“If he hasn’t grown some ability to change their minds, then we’re in the same place,” Grantham said. “None of this is such an emergency that we need to waste the taxpayers’ dollars and have a special session.”
During the regular session, lawmakers killed a bill from Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, that would have sent to voters a plan to increase sales taxes to raise billions of dollars over 20 years to address transportation needs.
Instead, the Legislature approved a bill that took the state’s hospital provider fee out from under revenue limits, thus freeing up money for other programs. That measure also calls for issuing bonds for nearly $2 billion to fund transportation projects.
Hickenlooper said that’s not enough given that the Colorado Department of Transportation has identified about $9 billion in need.
On health care, the governor said that several bills to help make health care costs more transparent to the public — as a way to spur providers to lower them — ended up dying in committees that don’t specialize in health care issues.
Grantham said each was given a fair hearing.
On broadband, Hickenlooper said a bill that sent about $9.5 million to infrastructure grants was nice, but not nearly enough either.
But Hickenlooper said he was most “befuddled” by lawmakers’ inability to come together on a measure introduced by Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, to rescue the Colorado Energy Office.
That office, which promotes energy projects from compressed natural gas to renewable energy, is set to be defunded at the end of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The governor said the 24 employees in that office likely won’t lose their jobs because he will be able to shift them elsewhere, but he still didn’t like the idea of Colorado being the only Western state without such an office.
“Republicans and Democrats seemed to have lines drawn in the sand over something pretty basic,” Hickenlooper said. “I saw this as a case where politics clearly got in the way of basic, commonsense solutions.”