With just a week left in Colorado’s 2018 legislative session, many bills dealing with the priorities of the Jefferson County Business Lobby await resolution, but action on those are accelerating as the May 9th adjournment date looms.
Maybe the most important example is transportation funding, a consistent topic in these JCBL updates. Both Republicans and Democrats are agreed that almost $500 million in general funds should go to transportation in the next budget year, a funding level we haven’t seen in a long time. But considering that Colorado faces a transportation funding deficit of about $1 billion per year, that is only a start.
After next year, how much – if any – additional general funds will be devoted to transportation is up in the air. SB1 is the transportation funding vehicle for the year and, as passed by the Republican-led Senate, provided for about $250 million per year for transportation in anticipation of the voters approving $3.5 billion bonds in 2019. As the bill was taken up this week by the Democratic-led House of Representatives, however, leaders there proposed two different major rewrites to the bill, ultimately settling on a proposal to dedicate an additional $40 million a year in new funding to $165 million in existing transportation funding to create a smaller bond package for consideration by the voters in 2019. This high-stakes back-and-forth will likely go down to the wire when the Legislature adjourns on May 9.
Overhanging any legislative action on transportation are one or more initiatives headed to the November ballot asking voters to increase taxes for roads, bridges and mobility. While an effort to propose increasing Colorado’s annual vehicle tax will not move forward, a coalition of businesses and local governments are will likely move forward with an effort in increase the state’s sales tax enough to pay for at least $3.5 billion in bonds with $500 million a year in new sales tax revenue. But the outcome of SB1 will influence which version the coalition advances to voters.
The hot topic of restoring the solvency of the Public Employees Retirement Association, the government employee retirement system, has been simmering all session but broke into a full boil in the last few weeks after the introduction of SB200. That bipartisan bill seeks to keep the PERA system healthy for another 30 years. The JCBL has identified three reforms, in particular, needed to help stabilize the pension fund so taxpayers won’t have to bail it out in the future. Those priorities include changing the formula for determining retirement benefits, raising the current retirement age of 58 years and the expansion of a defined contribution option for government employees. The Senate and House versions of SB200 have wide gaps between them on all three of those issues, differences that will have to be negotiated in a conference committee if the bill is to go to the Governors’ desk.
One of the JCBL’s other priorities for the 2018 session was regulatory reform. While several bills on that topic were introduced – such as permitting small businesses to cure minor paperwork violations without penalty – all but one failed to make it through both chambers. However, HB1250 – sponsored by Arvada Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp – was signed this week into law by Governor Hickenlooper. That bill requires each state regulatory agency to determine which of its regulations are violated the most and which result in the largest fines. That will be very useful information not currently available to the business community as we continue to ease the regulatory burdens on businesses of all sizes.
Many of the economic development bills on which the JCBL took a position have, almost by definition, costs associated with those bills. Those bills have been awaiting hearing in the Appropriations Committees for word one whether they will be funded. Some of those bills include two affordable housing tax credit bills, a sales tax exemption for on-demand air carriers, the extension of the advanced industry export acceleration program, and changes to the sourcing formula for business income taxes.Lastly, the JCBL is currently considering our position on two proposed amendments to the Colorado Constitution that are likely to be referred to the voters by the Legislature for the November 2018 election. SCR004 and SCR005 would both create an independent commission to redraw legislature and congressional district lines in an attempt to make districts more competitive and minimize gerrymandering.
Watch this space for a more comprehensive review of all of the major business-related legislation once the 2018 session is adjourned.
Just a reminder that you can find the status of all of the JCBL bills at jeffcobusinesslobby.org. While you are there, sign up for regular updates under the “Take Action” icon.
The Jefferson County Business Lobby is the united voice of JeffCo businesses at the Colorado State Capitol. The JCBL is a partnership comprised of the Arvada, Evergreen, Golden, West Metro, Westminster and Wheat Ridge Chambers of Commerce, the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation and the Applewood and Wheat Ridge Business Associations.