• January 24, 2024

    Colorado Capitol: Week in Review: January 10-19 / 2023

    January 24, 2024
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    Newsworthy Items from Under the Denver Capitol Dome

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    Colorado Free Press is republishing a copy of the Colorado GOP report from the Denver Capitol for last week's noteworthy events.

    Week in Review: January 10-19 / 2023

    Newsworthy Items from Under the Dome

    The 2024 session of the Colorado legislature began on Wednesday, January 10. That day was governed by the pomp-and-circumstance that is typical for the opening week; indeed, the following day Governor Polis came to the state House to deliver his annual ‘state-of-the-state’ address. 

    There has been little legislative action since then; as a result, this WIR focuses on the Opening Day remarks of Speaker McCluskie. 

    [note: this sheet contains a fair amount of background material that will help readers understand the recent historical and legislative context for the 2024 session; for this reason, this WIR is unusually long for a summary that doesn’t cover a lot of active legislation]

    §  §  §

    • On Wednesday January 10th  House Speaker Julie McCluskie offered her Opening Day speech. Among the issues she highlighted: 
    • Housing

    The Speaker said, “Lawmakers this year will present a meaningful package of bills to build more homes and save people money on housing”. She added, “Just as every Coloradan deserve a home they can afford, every Coloradan deserves to live safely in their communities free from gun violence”. And finally, “Lawmakers this year will present a meaningful package of bills to build more homes and save people money on housing”.

    • First, a review of last year: 
    • The Governor supported SB23-213, a bill that would have given state government the ability to override the zoning regulations of local governments. Some version of the bill will be back in 2024 because Democrats are desperate to expand the reach of mass transit and put affordable housing units – probably government-subsidized ones – next to mass-transit stations.
    • The Speaker noted that, “more than $118 million from legislation we passed is building or preserving nearly 2,900 affording housing units …”. Dear Reader: Where did that money come from? You. 
    • But not all Progressive housing initiatives concern four walls. Last year, Democrats passed Senate Bill 23-016 establishing GHG reduction goals for the state of 65 percent by 2035, and 75 percent by 2040, 90 percent by 2045, and increasing the 2050 goal to 100 percent; it also requires insurance companies that report more than $100 million in premiums to complete an annual climate risk disclosure, and requires the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) to include climate-risk assessments in its annual investment stewardship report.
    • House Bill 23-1233 required owners that want to build or renovate apartments to include an expensive electrical infrastructure and charging stations for EVs; Creating or modifying EV-infrastructure will be expensive; in the end, the costs of these imposed changes will be passed along to consumers – the cost of housing will increase, again. Will this make rents less expensive? Not a chance. 
    • Finally, in House Bill 23-1161 Democrats required more of their environmental standards apply to housing, including requiring specific installation of EV infrastructure and further limits on the kinds of appliances and light bulbs Coloradans can choose to purchase using about $20 million of your TABOR refunds to give a 30% discount to people that want to purchase ‘green’ lawn equipment; as a result, housing will get more expensive.
    • As conservatives, we understand that both the federal and state constitutions spell out the responsibilities and limitations of government; the federal Constitution, in tandem with the Declaration of Independence stresses the fundamental responsibility of government to safeguard the unalienable rights of citizens (as found, for example, in the Bill of Rights). Republicans generally believe the chief role of government is to safeguard the unalienable rights of citizens and to ensure that justice is meted out without favoritism.
    • So it seems fair to ask a couple of basic questions of the Speaker: (1) Is it really the role of the state government to be in the homebuilding or construction-finance business? (2) Where does the money you, Madam Speaker, referred to come from? Isn’t it true that a state government only gets money by taxing citizens? (3) Where does either of those constitutions say that people “deserve a home they can afford”? An affordable home is surely something to work for and to hope for, but by using the language of ‘deserve’ the Speaker creates the impression that affordable housing is a ‘right’ – Who says so?
    • Based on her comments and her record, you can expect the Speaker to take money from the ‘undeserving’ (that is, the financially successful – and similar groups) and distribute to the needy, using approved Progressive non-governmental groups as the conduit for this redistribution of taxpayer wealth. 
    • It’s a beautiful arrangement for certain politicians – they get to lecture the rest of us on the virtues of kindness and generosity while using your money to help their friends! This ‘compassion’ advantages them politically (because in the end, these Progressive NGOs show up to testify on these bills and rally their troops come election time).
    • Transportation

    The Speaker said, “I’m so proud of our work to save Coloradans money on electric vehicles, green transit options, and clean energy alternatives that will improve our air, protect our water, and help us meet our climate goals”. She also said, “it [the package of bills to build more homes] includes legislation to legalize accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and multifamily housing near transit …”

    We should understand the connection between housing and mass transit in Progressive policy and ideology. In the case of affordable housing, the often unspoken but in-fact overriding principle is that Democrats want people concentrated in cities. This basic Progressive tenet might stem from the belief that urban life is more efficient and sophisticated than its suburban or rural counterparts, or that a concentrated population will use mass transit and thus save the planet from global warming, or that people living in close proximity to one another are more easily controlled. Whether it’s a combination of those notions or something else entirely, the bottom line is that whatever the reason Progressives want people in cities. This core value clearly impacts their policies on affordable housing. For a perceptive critique of this outdated thinking, see this.

    • The Speaker claims to have ‘saved people money on electric vehicles’ – that’s a reference to last year’s HB23-1272. How much of your money should be used to fund a Tesla purchase for a stranger in another town? HB23-1272 (‘tax policy advancing decarbonization’) spends $133 million of taxpayer dollars in tax credits and expenditures over the next 3 years – and most of that money is taken from anticipated TABOR refunds (that is, money that taxpayers are already owed back by the state government). The money will be spent on tax credits for electric vehicles (EVs) and electric bicycles, among other things. 
    • For the party that claims to represent the downtrodden, it is ironic that they support a bill in which these credits will go to people that statistically speaking already enjoy higher incomes than the average taxpayer. But in House Bill 1272, Democrats direct that the money taken from all taxpayers be used to offer credit to a select group that already earns more.  
    • Even as Democrats subsidize EVs for the well to do, they are making much bigger plans for mass-transit. But first a little background:
    • Since 2000, the Denver-Metro region has spent nearly $8 billion building light-rail and commuter-rail lines. Despite this, the share of workers commuting by transit in the city of Denver fell to 7.6% in 2019, while the share in the metro area was unchanged at 4.8%. 
    • Census data show that 4.68% of the region’s workers commuted by transit in 1990 before any rail transit existed. As of 2019, this had increased to 4.79%. A tenth of a percent increase in transit’s share of commuting hardly constitutes a great success for a program that costs well over billions of taxpayer dollars.
    • In 2000, 8.4% of workers in the city of Denver took transit to work, while in the wider Denver-Aurora area the figure was 4.8%.
    • Transit proponents claimed these projects would reduce congestion. Instead, the Texas Transportation Institute says that the amount of time the average metro-area commuter wasted in traffic increased by more than 40% between 2000 and 2019.
    • The amount of fuel wasted due to congestion grew by nearly 60%, adding hundreds of thousands of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year. Spending money on transit did little or nothing to relieve this congestion.
    • Congestion declined in 2020 due to the pandemic. But the latest data from the Federal Highway Administration say that urban Coloradans drove almost 15% more miles in June 2022 than June 2019. Colorado transit, however, carried less than 64% as many riders in June 2022 as in June 2019, demonstrating transit’s low resilience to change.
    • This year we can expect additional legislation to impose Denver-Boulder solutions on the rest of the state by proposals to spend a king’s ransom of mass-transit projects that, as before, people will simply choose not to use. 
    • What we’re unlikely to get is significant new spending to create new and better roads to cut down on congestion and commute times. 
    • Healthcare

    The Speaker said, “[Last year] We passed a landmark package of reproductive health laws that will protect patients, expand access to abortion and secure the health care people in our state, or those coming here, need”.

    • Ironically, in a departure from her scripted speech the Speaker noted that several babies had been born to members this past year and she enthused, “We love babies”. Yet she voted for HB22-1279 (‘Reproductive health equity act’), the most expansive abortion law in the nation; also, see below.
    • Let’s interpret what the Speaker said; in talking about last year’s ‘reproductive health laws’, she’s referring to SB23-188, 189, and 190. 
    • In Senate Bill 23-188 Democrats in the General Assembly completely redefined the meaning of ‘reproductive care’ – according to the bill it refers to sterilizing individuals in association with transgender-related treatments in addition to abortion and HIV medications. The bill makes Colorado the Mecca for abortion and gender-related amputations, plastic surgery, and chemical treatments nationwide, with a special view to insuring that Colorado doctors are protected from whatever they do in this field, even in another state. It is especially noteworthy that these measures contain the specific provision that parents of minor children not be notified of the ‘healthcare’ being offered and given to their children.
    • Senate Bill 23-189 ensures that minor children will have access to life-changing and future-changing medical ‘treatments’ free and without notification of parents; the bill requires insurance companies to pay for ‘reproductive services’, including transgendering surgeries, medications, and counseling, along with chemical and surgical abortions – all without imposing any deductibles, co-pays, or lifetime policy maximums. These services must be provided to covered minor children without parental notification. What will do to the cost of health insurance policies offered in Colorado? Will it lower costs – or increase them? Moreover, the bill requires all of us to subsidize this behavior indirectly.
    • Senate Bill 23-190 robs women that have started a chemical abortion of the ability to take steps to reverse it via a medical option that has repeatedly worked. All throughout the abortion debates of the past several years we were told that nobody – but nobody – had the right to stand between a woman, her reproductive choice, and her doctor. With the passage of Senate Bill 190, we now know that Democrats are more than willing to step between a woman and her doctor if the ‘choice’ she happens to make is to give her baby life.          
    • As to the existing state of health care in Colorado, you might be surprised to learn that about 44% of Coloradans already rely on government-provided healthcare. That includes 1.575 million on Medicaid and another 976,000 on Medicare.

    table 1: a comparison of general fund spending on medicaid & education

    Fiscal YearMedicaid Enrollees% Change from Prior PeriodPopulation/ Medicaid Enrollment as % of PopulationGeneral Fund $$ MedicaidHealth Care as % of GF SpendingEducat’n as % of GF Spending
    2004-05403,000na4.596m/= 8.8%$1.259b29.6%43.6%
    2008-09436,000+8.1%4.929m/= 8.8%$1.529b29.0%41.4%
    2012-13678,000+55.1%5.194m/= 13.1%$1.857b33.0%39.8%
    2016-171,386,000+104.4%5.541m/= 25.0%$2.654b34.9%37.7%
    2017-181,420,000+2.5%5.616m/= 25.3%$2.823b34.7%38.6%
    2018-191,350,000(4.9%)5.696m/= 23.7%$2.905b34.0%36.6%
    2019-201,293,000(4.2%)5.778m/= 22.3%$3.151b34.4%36.1%
    2020-211,538,000+18.9%5.774m/= 26.6%$3.185b38.2%36.2%
    2021-221,552,000(0.9%)5.812m/= 26.7%$3.347b35.6%34.4%
    2022-231,705,000+9.9%5.840m/= 29.2%$4.085b29.4%32.4%
    2023-241,575,000(7.6%)5.840m/= 27.0%$4.526b30.0%30.9%

    Medicaid expanded dramatically under Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper in 2013 (via SB13-200); since then Medicaid enrollment has remained high. From 2000 to 2010, about 1-in-12 (~8%) Coloradans relied on healthcare provided by their fellow citizens, more recently that number has grown to about 2-in-5. We have Obamacare and John Hickenlooper to thank for the massive expansion of Medicaid.

    • The Speaker also referred to insuring health care for “those coming here”. This is a subtle reference to the steps taken by Democrats to use taxpayer funds for abortion and other medical ‘needs’ of illegal aliens. In fact, Democrats have funneled taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal aliens over the past few years. Here’s a list for future reference:
    • Under Senate Bill 20-215 (‘Health Insurance Affordability Enterprise’), a new fee is attached to every health care premium paid in the state. This fee (and many would argue that it’s a tax; a debate to be taken up elsewhere) is collected from insurance carriers by the ‘Health Insurance Affordability Enterprise’, which imposes an additional 2.1% fee on every health insurance premium sold in the state (the new fee is 1.15% if you happen to use Kaiser Permanente or a similar “non-profit” carrier). Because the fee is charged to insurance companies rather than individuals, it might not show up directly on your insurance bill – but it’s unlikely these companies simply absorb the new per customer cost rather than pass it on. With total insurance premiums for a family costing about $20,000 per year (employers typically pay two-thirds or more of the cost), that 2.1% charge runs to a little over $400 per policy. The Enterprise collected nearly $500 million in its first two years of operation. What does the enterprise do with the money? Purchase health insurance for other people living in Colorado. Under the terms of Senate Bill 215, among other things a “qualified individual” can have household income up to $78,600 (for a family of 4) “regardless of immigration status.” Because the bill specifically excluded people receiving other government sponsored health programs from eligibility (and only citizens can receive those), it is clear that Democrats intended to make illegal immigrants the prime beneficiaries of the new enterprise. Senate Bill 215 might help a few American citizens, but why did Democrats write it to ensure those here illegally would be the greatest beneficiaries?
    • House Bill 20-1420 (‘Adjust tax expenditures for state education fund’) distributed nearly $150 million in refundable tax credits. Those households eligible for the ‘Earned Income Tax Credit’ (EITC) typically earn up to $50,000. Although the federal CARES Act and federal law do not permit the credit to be paid to those in the country illegally, House Bill 1420 specifically directed the state refunds (which are made 50% larger by the tax increases in 1420) go to those “without a valid Social Security number”. Those in the country illegally cannot legally work or obtain a Social Security number, but the Democrat Majority made sure to pay them in the midst of layoffs and furloughs related to the pandemic. 
    • HB21-1054 (‘Housing public benefit verification requirement’) eliminated the requirement that an applicant for federal, state, or local public benefits verify 
lawful presence in the United States in regards to receipt of public or assisted housing, housing services, 
housing assistance, or other similar benefit. 
 Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 prohibits the Secretary of HUD from 
making financial assistance available to persons other than United States citizens, nationals, or certain 
categories of eligible noncitizens. 
    • Those in the country illegally already enjoy many benefits: access to public schools, hospitals, roads, and the general 
protection of a civil society (including police and fire brigades). But thousands of Coloradans were out of work in 2021 and struggled to provide for their families and children thanks to the pandemic – but Democrats forced struggling citizens to fund additional benefits to those who aren’t even here legally!
    • HB21-1311 (‘income tax’) profoundly raised taxes by eliminating certain income deductions typically used by those in higher income brackets – in its first 2.5 years over $100 million new dollars flowed in. Democrats used this money to once again substantially increase the ‘Earned Income Tax Credit’ for those earning less– and made sure that those in the country were eligible to receive this refundable credit. Is that fair? 
    • SB21 009 (‘Reproductive health care program’) created a reproductive health care program through which individuals who can’t receive Medicaid 
program benefits on account of their ‘unlawfully present’ immigration status can, nevertheless, obtain a one- year supply of contraception and related counseling services. This ‘freebie’ will cost taxpayers about $7.4 million over two years. 
The fiscal note assumed tens of thousands of women would use the program. 
    • HB21-1194 (‘Immigration legal defense fund’) created the ‘immigration legal defense fund’ to be administered by the Department of Human Services to award grants to non-profit organizations that provide legal defense and related advice for indigent clients facing deportation proceedings. A full range of litigation expenses including legal counsel, translation services, expert testimony, medical and psychological evaluations, and office overhead were covered by the taxpayer-funded grants – most of which, of course, could have been avoided had the client come to or remained in the country in a legal way. Is it really fair for families hit by the financial and psychological damage originating with government shutdowns also to be forced to pay for these legal expenses?
    • SB21-077 (‘Remove lawful presence verification credentialing’) 
eliminated the requirement that the Departments of Education and Regulatory Agencies (and related 
boards & divisions) verify the legal presence of individuals seeking a license or license renewal before 
issuing them. 
Under this new approach, citizens of other countries here illegally can be licensed to practice medicine, 
teach our children, operate child care centers, and practice an entire range of professions that require state 
licenses. 
Thanks to this bill, American citizens will now be competing with those who ignore or disobey immigration law. 
Prior to this bill, ‘professionals’ didn’t have to worry about job competition from illegals and the lower wage pressure that competition brings – now they do. 

    • SB21-199 (‘Remove barriers to certain public opportunities’) 
amended statute relating to restrictions on state or local public benefits, prohibiting consideration of 
an individual's lawful presence in the United States in determining eligibility for such benefits. Much of the 
bill was duplicative of SB 077. 
Democrats argued that illegal aliens pay taxes and contribute to the state in other intangible ways, and should 
therefore be entitled to public benefits, even if they are in violation of U.S. immigration laws. This argument 
is questionable. 
According to the Heritage Foundation, the average unlawful immigrant household receives around $24,721 in government benefits and services while paying some $10,334 in taxes. This generated an average annual fiscal deficit (benefits received minus taxes paid) of around $14,387 per household. This cost must be borne by U.S. taxpayers. 

    • HB22-1289 (‘Health benefits for Colorado children and pregnant persons’) spends tens of millions of dollars to provide health benefits to people here illegally. 
    • I wouldn’t blame anyone for coming to America – but the fact is, there are many legal ways to do it, and it’s wrong to force law-abiding citizens to pick up the tab for uninvited guests year after year after year.
    • Our nation is made stronger by a sensible and legal immigration policy. Hundreds of thousands of people a year come to America legally. But Colorado Democrats show their contempt for the law and disregard for hardworking taxpayers by continually discovering creative ways to confiscate your money and to give it to their political allies.
    • As a result, you are poorer. Your children are poorer. Our economy is weaker. But all is not lost: Democrats get to claim ‘compassion’ – even as you pay for it. Democrats “care” all right, they just don’t care about you.
    • Education

    The Speaker promised to deliver “… a historic level of funding to Colorado schools that districts can use to increase teacher and educator pay, reduce class sizes, and set our students up to thrive”.

    • Education funding is a complex issue; suffice to say that we’re already spending records amount of money on education (according to the latest audited financial statement from the Department of Education [for 2021-22], on average districts receive over $18,000 per student per year! ). 
    • Yet our student results on standardized tests are not good: What was true prior to the pandemic is also true after it: under no grade or subject did the overall majority of students ‘meet or exceed’ expectations, and in several subjects, fewer than one-third of overall students reached that basic level of competence.
    • This year, we can expect a more expensive version of the same old plan with the same old results, with a couple of new wrinkles: there will be an effort to cut back on or get rid of standardized tests (they are embarrassing for the establishment), limit parental choice, and parental involvement.
    • Teacher pay is complicated. The first and most important question is a philosophical one: is it legitimate to compare a teaching job and its pay with other jobs? In my opinion, any comparison between the two is only legitimate once the unique circumstance of teacher hours worked per year is taken into account (according to 2 studies, one by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the other by Central Washington University, teachers on average work between 1332 and 1665 hours per year (the full-time average is 2087). For future reference, the Table below illustrates how well teachers fare when it comes to pay in various school districts. When it comes to teacher pay, See next page –

    table 2: teacher pay in local context: average teacher pay per district & average per capita pay per district. color code: pink = actual teacher pay already exceeds county average; green = teacher pay @1665 hrs exceeds county average; blue = teacher pay @1332 hours exceeds county average,

    district / countyavg actual teacherpay (2022-23)county avg per capita pay     (2023)avg teacher pay @1665 hrs (x1.25%)avg teacher pay @1332 hrs (x1.57%)
    Denver 1/Denver$73,582$90,376$86,011$101,919
    Jefferson R-1/Jefferson$74,034$73,996$86,576$102,629
    Douglas/Douglas$65,056$77,532$75,353$88,533
    Cherry Creek 5/Arapahoe$81,063$79,456$95,362$113,664
    Adms-Arap 28-J/Arapahoe$75,056$79,456$87,853$104,233
    Littleton 6/Arapahoe$77,649$79,456$91,094$108,304
    Adams 12-5 Star/Adams$71,543$70,668$83,462$98,718
    Westminster/Adams$75,114$70,668$87,926$104,324
    St Vrain Valley/Boulder$71,401$88,140$83,284$98,495
    Boulder Valley/Boulder$88,981$88,140$105,259$126,095
    Poudre R-1/Larimer$66,939$65,832$77,707$91,489
    Academy 20/El Paso$59,834$62,712$68,826$80,335
    Falcon 49/El Paso$54,791$62,712$62,522$72,417
    CO Springs 11/El Paso$60,495$62,712$69,652$81,372
    Greeley 6/Weld$58,875$62,296$67,627$78,829
    Mesa Valley 51/Mesa$58,837$54,340$67,579$78,769
    Pueblo City 60/Pueblo$57,234$53,144$65,576$76,253
    Delta 50 (J)/Delta$50,639$44,720$57,332$65,898
    Yuma 1/Yuma$49,257$46,072$55,604$63,729

    The colored rows draw attention to certain phenomena. A comparison of actual teacher pay for a given district (in column 2) with average per capita pay in the county where the district is located (in column 3) reveals that: 

    • In every district, teachers working 1332 hours a year earn at a higher rate than their home county’s per capita average, often by a lot. 
    • In 10 of the 19 districts surveyed (pink highlighted), actual teacher pay is already higher than the county per capita average; for these district, when the 1665- and 1332-hour multi-pliers are used, teachers earn at a rate that far exceeds the county average.  
    • In another 5 districts (in green), while current actual pay is below the county average, when it is adjusted for a more realistic number of hours worked (1665), teacher pay exceeds the county average, in some instances by a wide margin (+10%). 
    • In 4 of the districts (blue), current actual teacher pay is below the county per capita average even when that pay is adjusted to show a more realistic number of hours worked (1665 hrs); only when teachers are reckoned to work 1332 hours does their pay match the county average. 

    §  §  §

    1. Prior to 2020-21 each year’s Appropriations Report on Health Care Policy and Financing contained a section on Medicaid enrollment; from 2020-21 onward there was a graph with future projections and a short paragraph summarizing the prior year’s enrollment. By comparing the two one can see that the forecasts regularly underestimated what enrollment would be. FYI: data suggest that 976,000 Coloradans are enrolled in Medicare (per: www.affordablehealthinsurance.com/medicare-plans/colorado/).
    2. Accessible at: https://www.cde.state.co.us/cdefinance/fiscalyear2021-2022districtrevenuesandexpenditures. These data might differ from the more up-to-date material found in the spreadsheets for school funding per the 1994 School Finance Act, also accessible via the CDE website; however, the revenue and expenditure data is both more comprehensive and audited, thus making it more reliable (if slightly outdated). The audited financial reports of a given fiscal year typically show up about 2 years after the fiscal year in question.
    3. According to: https://www.cde.state.co.us/cdereval/2022-2023averageteachersalarypdf.
    4. At: https://data.bls.gov/maps/cew/CO?period=2023-Q2&industry=10&geo_id=08000&chartData=6&distribution= 1&pos_color=blue&neg_color=orange&showHideChart=show&ownerType=0 The data derives from Quarter 2, 2023. 

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