2016-17 legislative session recap
When we look back at the last 120 days of the legislative session, a quote from President Eisenhower comes to mind: “People talk about the middle of the road as though it were unacceptable … Things are not all black and white. There must be compromises. The middle of the road is all of the usable surface.”
During our legislative preview session last fall, Dr. Jason Glass shared an insightful comment that “a split legislature slows down stupid”, meaning both parties need to find ways to compromise and be pragmatic to get things done for the betterment of Colorado. As the session ended last Wednesday there were numerous issues where we found compromise and solutions – where the legislature used that middle of the road, and good solutions were brokered.
When the session kicked off, there were clear priorities for the statewide business community – some of which had been on our list for several sessions, and many aligned with our friends at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry. These included reforming construction defects laws, reclassifying the hospital provider fee, and funding transportation.
For the past four years, the Denver Metro Chamber and other business groups have advocated for a solution to address construction defects litigation – asking for changes in the current policy because it has decimated the development of new entry-level condominiums, preventing workers and families from being able to purchase a home. It wasn’t until this session that the legislature was able to build consensus and find a middle ground that protects home buyers while allowing developers to move forward on projects.
Business groups have also continued to ask that the Hospital Provider Fee be established in an enterprise fund so that these dollars would no longer count against the state’s revenue cap under TABOR (Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights). Senate Bill 267 also included provisions to reduce the personal property tax burden on small businesses and requires efficiencies and savings from the general fund. The money freed up from these actions will go to fund transportation and education while ensuring our rural hospitals can keep their doors open.
These are examples of two critical, long-sought-after solutions that will benefit all Coloradans.
We unfortunately did not find that middle of the road on transportation funding. Vail Valley Partnership joined many other chamber and industry groups in supporting a bill that would provide funding for transportation through a sales tax increase, because our members know that failing to fund our transportation system will hurt our ability to ensure economic success throughout our state. While we couldn’t find a proposal that was supported by key legislators, we did see leadership from House Leader Crisanta Duran and Senate President Kevin Grantham on this issue.
Almost 70 percent of Coloradans recognize how critical it is that we invest in our transportation system. We know that Colorado has a $9 billion list of projects that are needed statewide. This is an issue that we can’t afford to ignore or wait to solve – other states are moving forward to address their transportation challenges because they too know that these investments are needed to fuel any economy and save our residents money and time.
Chamber groups around the state remain committed to working to find a path forward to find funding to address Colorado’s deferred maintenance and worsening congestion challenges throughout the state.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Some information in this column was prepared by the Denver Metro Chamber and used with permission. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com