DENVER (AP) - Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper insisted Tuesday he can work with skeptical Republicans on his plan to avoid having to give refunds to taxpayers and invest the money instead on transportation and schools.
Hickenlooper discussed several priorities on the eve of the 2016 legislative session, one to be dominated by his plan to have lawmakers reclassify about $750 million coming from a fee on hospital patients. The move would remove that sum from state constitutional spending limits and allow the state to spend more money without asking voters, as would be required under the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.
Colorado attracted about 100,000 new residents last year, and the governor says the state needs to keep tax collections to fund highway infrastructure and keep higher education spending on an even keel.
GOP Senate President Bill Cadman last week called the plan illegal, citing a nonbinding legal opinion from the Legislature’s own lawyers.
Hickenlooper said his administration is consulting with the attorney general’s office for legal guidance on the issue and that a new proposal could come in a month. He added that he believed Cadman’s request for an opinion showed he, too, had been considering legislation to achieve a solution on mandatory tax rebates and spending.
“They’re not recognizing the scale of the problem,” the Democrat said of Republicans who control the Senate and propose issuing bonds to fund transportation needs. Hickenlooper insisted the fast-growing state cannot bond its way to pay for highways without sufficient revenue.
Hickenlooper said he’s willing to work with the GOP to contain the growth of Medicaid spending, which the GOP argues is to blame for Colorado’s budget woes. Colorado is spending about $2.5 billion this year on the health care plan for the needy, and the governor projects that number to go up another $80 million next year.
Also, Hickenlooper said he and fiancee Robin Pringle will be married Saturday in a small, private ceremony. Pringle is vice president of corporate development for Liberty Media Corp. in suburban Englewood.
James Anderson can be reached on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/jandersonap
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