DENVER (AP) - The Colorado Legislature opened for business under newly divided management Wednesday, setting up conflicts on economic issues that both parties have identified as key priorities this session.
Democrats retained control in the House and governor’s office, but Republicans took command of the state Senate for the first time in a decade, gaining a one-vote majority.
In their opening remarks, newly selected leaders in the House and Senate promised to work together while outlining slightly different paths toward similar goals.
Minority chamber leaders, however, took stances that are sure to place the Republicans and Democrats at odds.
The newly selected Senate president, Bill Cadman, made it clear that the GOP would push for tax cuts and workforce development programs. The Colorado Springs Republican also said his party would block any attempts to keep refunds due taxpayers from a projected budget surplus.
House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, the first Democratic woman in state history to hold the position, made a call for job training initiatives aimed toward the middle class. “Because when the middle class grows and thrives,” the Boulder County Democrat said, “all of Colorado benefits.”
Hullinghorst also said legislators should be “standing up for small businesses.”
The minority leaders then drew battle lines.
House Republican Leader Brian DelGrosso warned Democrats to expect a fight over any attempts to increase oversight of the oil and gas industry, and he reinforced Cadman’s position that tax refunds due under the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights weren’t negotiable.
The rebates might not be for large sums, but “Republicans believe that the people can spend their money better than government can,” DelGrosso said.
He also said Republicans want to chip away at a 2013 law that strengthened renewable energy requirements for rural electricity providers. “Republicans support renewable energy,” he said. “But we do not support stifling our economy and killing jobs to pursue an unrealistic agenda.”
In the Senate, Democratic Leader Morgan Carroll talked about raising the minimum wage from its current $8.23 an hour, plus capping student loan debt and public tuition hikes.
“What’s right, what’s just, is an economy that works for everyone,” Carroll said, “not just a few at the top.”
Ivan Moreno can be reached at https://www.twitter.com/ivanjourno and Kristen Wyatt can be reached at https://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt
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