Denver -- Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) released the following statement today in response to the Senate Finance Committee's voting down of HB-1420, the proposed enterprising of the hospital provider fee:
Colorado's state budget just hit a record - again. We had more general fund revenue - again. It was around $500 million more this year than last year. Our general fund has been growing significantly faster than other economic indicators over the past 14 years. It is up nearly 50% over this period of time while Colorado’s population, K-12 enrollment, college attendance and prison population have grown around 23%.
With so much more money, why is there a deficit in K-12 funding of more than $800 million? With so much money, why are our roads in such sad shape? With so many more general fund dollars, why is our infrastructure neglected?
The answer is simple. The Democrats decided that our schools, our roads and our infrastructure were not their priorities. With Democrat spending habits, the needs of 5.4 million residents, including nearly 900,000 school kids, have been shortchanged.
So, what was their priority with our money? It was increasing health insurance entitlements, which will soon capture nearly 1 in 4 Coloradans. Their spending priorities expanded a system designed as a health insurance safety net for those who needed it the most, but it has now become the largest single provider of health insurance in Colorado - paid for by taxpayers.
And what is the price tag for this benevolence? It's a lot! "Free" health insurance is now consuming nearly a third of the entire budget and nearly one-fourth of our general fund. "Free" health insurance is paid for by diverting dollars from other government programs and services. "Free" health insurance is bankrupting Colorado's budget.
The Governor seeks accolades for "reducing the uninsured population." Perhaps we should apply this same principle to the job market. We could entirely eliminate unemployment by offering government jobs to all.
With their self-inflicted budget shortfalls, the Democrats are now drooling over the possibility of a spending windfall if the legislature were to comply with an accounting change for the Hospital Provider Fee. The fee generates hundreds of millions of dollars counted toward voter-approved spending limits. Enterprising this would take it off Colorado's books and could provide new spending by government.
Under their plan, money might be available in the general fund if revenues stay positive in the future. They are now claiming that if this money becomes available they would promise to spend it on K-12, roads, infrastructure and higher education. This promise is "notwithstanding" unforeseen budget challenges. Notwithstanding means recession, catastrophes, state lawsuit settlements, expense increases, etc. Notwithstanding could mean anything.
They "promise" this money won't go into healthcare entitlements "notwithstanding" surprises. It's like a solid promise, sort of, maybe.
Regardless of the outcome of any proposals on the Hospital Provider Fee, representing to Coloradans that there is a genie waiting in a bottle to pop out with hundreds of millions of dollars that will increase K-12 school funding, improve highways and offer more support to our college systems sounds great, but there is no genie. There are no accounting tricks or budget gimmicks that will solve the billion dollar K-12 deficit or the $8 billion transportation backlog. These are serious numbers that represent serious demands on the state budget. The solution requires bipartisan cooperation.
The good news is Democrats and Republicans can work together in Colorado and work together well. We do it every year. We do it on every budget. The challenges before us are not beyond us. When the Democrats are ready to get serious about entitlement reform, and about establishing budgeting priorities that serve the entire state, not just the entitlement state, they will find willing partners in Republicans
Please direct any media inquiries to Sean Paige at 719-337-0355