Success from the session: Hickenlooper signs three bills good for Colorado, citizens
Gov. John Hickenlooper today signed Senate Bill 184, which will create a one-year tax amnesty program and also will establish an annual tax expenditure report that will give lawmakers a complete picture of state revenues as they make spending decisions.
The tax amnesty program is a reasonable mechanism to bring in more tax revenues this year, when we really need them. However, we believe the tax expenditure report will have greater long-term impact for Colorado.
Unlike spending decisions, which are carefully scrutinized and reviewed every year, there is limited review of tax exemptions and credits. We enact them and then forget about them. Yet they account for more than one-quarter of our General Fund revenue and are paid "off the top," before we fund any other aspect of state government.
The tax expenditure report will provide important information so policymakers can make better-informed decisions about tax credits and exemptions. It will also increase the level of accountability and public transparency around tax credits and expenditures.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, and Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver.
Earlier this week, the governor signed other key pieces of legislation, including:
Senate Bill 200 will create a competitive health benefits exchange in Colorado, which is an important component of the reforms in the national Affordable Care Act.
The exchange established under SB 200, sponsored by Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, and Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, will help individuals and small businesses navigate and compare private health insurance plans. An exchange was a key recommendation of the Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Reform and will create a Colorado-specific solution to meet the unique needs of the citizens in our state.
The exchange has the potential to lower costs and insure many more Coloradans.
Senate Bill 52 requires development of statewide goals for Colorado's higher education system, a collaborative master-planning process and the adoption of institution-specific performance contracts with explicit expectations for student success.
We believe the bill, sponsored by Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, and Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, will expand opportunity in Colorado by increasing post-secondary success for all students – including minority, low-income and working adult students – and by strengthening the state's workforce and economic competitiveness.
The bill's goals match well with policies that the Bell Policy Center has historically advocated: increasing post-secondary student success, expanding the reach of that success to include under-represented populations, ensuring affordability for low- and middle-income students and families, and emphasizing higher education as the foundation of workforce and economic development in our state.
All three of these bills are good for Colorado and its citizens. They will promote sound fiscal decision-making, create options for health insurance and increase educational opportunities for many residents.
That's three-for-three in our book, and we applaud the governor for signing these bills.