Colorado Democrats — who control the state Senate, House of Representatives and governor’s office — unveiled their election-year legislative platform during a Monday press conference.
Democrats hear Coloradans’ concerns about the rising cost of living and “have a plan to make it easier to get by,” House Speaker Alec Garnett said on the steps of the Colorado Capitol.
Gov. Jared Polis’ budget request, submitted in November, included $104 million in fee relief for individuals and businesses. If approved by the Joint Budget Committee and the Colorado General Assembly, the money would cover fees to start a business and health care workers’ professional license fees. It would also reduce the premiums paid by employers and employees in the first six months of a paid family and medical leave program that voters approved in 2020.
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An amendment submitted Jan. 3 to the governor’s original budget request would provide additional fee relief for vehicle owners. The money would allow the state to delay implementing a gas fee included in Senate Bill 21-260, the transportation package that passed last year, as well as extend SB-260’s temporary reduction of vehicle registration fees.
Additionally, Polis has proposed using $600 million in state and federal money to replenish some of the state’s COVID-battered unemployment insurance trust fund, and help small businesses pay the higher premiums resulting from the fund’s insolvency.
Besides the fee relief, Democrats say they want to pass state legislation expanding access to health care and reducing health care costs, reducing child care and housing costs, preparing students for success, and making communities safer.
Polis’ original budget proposal included funds for helping rural health care providers better use data and technology to improve patient care. The amended budget request would also direct state general fund dollars and federal matching funds to initiatives supporting the nursing home workforce and industry. This would include temporary payments to nursing home facilities that accept patients being discharged from hospitals.
As for public safety, Polis’ budget proposal includes grant funding for local law enforcement agencies to help them implement co-responder teams with behavioral health workers and fund community policing programs as well as grants to help train and recruit local police officers.
Democrats who spoke at Monday’s news conference highlighted the federal money that’s being directed toward affordable housing and behavioral health, two areas that Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg and House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar emphasized in an interview with Newsline last week. Two legislative task forces met over the summer and fall to develop recommendations on how to spend a combined $850 million on housing and behavioral health.</…….