Bente Birkeland

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.

 

Colorado’s $28.6 billion budget is nearing the end of its legislative journey.

Each year, the six-member, bipartisan Joint Budget Committee crafts a balanced budget before sending it to the House and Senate for amendments. The JBC then has to reconcile those changes.

But in most cases, they go back to the original budget they spend months writing.

This year, the the House and Senate have added about 30 amendments to the so-called “long bill”.

Changlc / Creative Commons

Colorado State Senator Don Coram, who represents southwestern Colorado, voted yes on the 2017 budget even though it makes significant cuts to state hospital funding. But Coram says he hopes to maintain funding for rural hospitals by supporting a separate bill introduced in the Senate on Tuesday. Senate Bill 267 would restructure a fee hospitals pay to help fund healthcare for low-income patients.

Colorado’s budget handily passed the state Senate on March 29. It has bipartisan support and increased four percent compared to the previous year. In many ways the debate was a microcosm of the entire legislative session. It showed lawmakers working together, complex policy issues,  partisan fights and political statements. It is balanced, as required by the state constitution, but reflects how Colorado lacks enough money to fully fund schools, health care and roads.

Many lawmakers are not happy with how the bill turned out.

While the Affordable Care Act “is going to remain the law of the land” for the foreseeable future, that isn’t preventing state lawmakers from debating health care reform efforts in Colorado. One key proposal is moving through the state legislature, however it’s not likely to gain enough traction to become law in part because of the national debate over Obamacare.

A proposal in the Republican-controlled state Senate seeks to do away with the state’s health care exchange – Connect for Health Colorado – and switch over to the federal exchange.  The exchanges are how individuals purchase insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

A top Republican joined with Democratic leaders at the Colorado legislature Wednesday evening in an effort to find solutions to ongoing transportation woes.

To do that lawmakers are proposing House Bill 1142. It would send the question to voters, asking for a 0.62 cent sales tax increase. That money would go towards priority infrastructure projects as well as to provide funding to local governments for transit, roads, trails, and potholes.

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