January 8th marks the beginning of the 72nd Colorado General Assembly's second session and many taxpayers are wondering what they can expect when it comes to legislation that can most impact their wallets and their livelihoods. Here's a brief recap of what to keep your eye on starting on Wednesday:
The Public Option
Healthcare remains a priority for most legislators this session, and that seems to be culminating in a "public option" proposal by Senator Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) and Representative Dylan Roberts (D-Eagle). The title is somewhat misleading, as the "option" would actually be provided by insurance companies via force by the state government. The plan's most controversial aspect is state-mandated price caps that would limit how much a hospital can charge for certain operations, procedures, and services.
Unsurprisingly, it seems that opposition from the healthcare industry has already mounted, and signals of unintended consequences seem to be laser-focused on legislators who will listen. The program would be a first for the nation, so just how much this could affect taxpayers is yet to be seen. One consideration is that if hospitals are forced to only charge certain patients a set amount, they may offset costs by raising prices on those patients that are not under the new "public option."
You can read more about the proposal in a recent Colorado Independent article.
Paid Family Leave
As we discussed before, the FAMLI Act may already be dead on arrival, but that won't stop Senator Faith Winter (D-Westminster) from giving it the ole college try in 2020. Without a doubt, this legislation has the greatest chance to make an impact on your life.
A recent report published by AMI Risk Consultants of Miami stated that Colorado's program may need to tax up to 1.18% of your income to generate the revenue necessary to sustain the paid family leave program. This is an even greater percentage than was originally proposed in 2019. You can read more about the risk audit and the numbers in the Denver Business Journal.
We'll have to see if legislators finally throw in the towel on this proposal or charge full-steam ahead despite even Governor Polis issuing warnings that he won't sign anything that isn't fiscally sound. Regardless, keep your eyes on this proposal as it has the ability to take up to 1.18% out of every paycheck you earn.
Income Tax Reform
It's unlikely to pass - but almost certain to come back - but Republicans get excited everytime Governor Polis mentions his wish to permanently bring down Colorado's income tax rate. The issue is the fine print. While Republicans want to simply slash the rate and subsequently slash the budget (or at least decrease excess revenues), Governor Polis wants a "revenue neutral" option that eliminates loopholes and subsidies to reduce the rate. In 2019, legislative Democrats didn't entertain any ideas about cutting the income tax rate, killing the Republican proposal in committee. We'll have to see if that changes at all in 2020.
Ending Private Prisons
Setting aside any ethical arguments, the fight over private prisons is certain to reach its climax in 2020. As reported in the Denver Post, some lawmakers want to get Colorado off the private prison wagon sooner rather than later. While the ethical discussion will suck the air out of the room, it's worth considering that many Colorado communities are based almost-solely on the prisons that are part of them. Counties such as Bent and Crowley derive significant percentages of their property taxes from the prisons within them as well. This is worth keeping your eye on, especially if you live in or near a private prison in Colorado.
Won't Be Coming: Public School Finance Reform
It doesn't look like any significant reform of the public school finance formula will be happening in 2020.
Colorado Taxpayers Advocate Fund, Inc. exists to educate citizens and Colorado public officials on issues of public policy so they can, if they choose, make a difference in their community on issues affecting their city, state, and even their country at large.