The Post editorial:
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s outline for action and funds will ultimately be up to voters.
There was almost a plaintive tone to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s State of the State speech Thursday as he sought to cajole members of the General Assembly into coming together to find new revenue for transportation and education.
Skeptical political observers may have already concluded that the legislature will be deadlocked on these issues— see our editorial of just last week, for example— but the governor isn’t raising the white flag just yet.
And he laid out the stakes in stark terms.
“Travel on our highways has increased 42 percent in the last 20 years. But the capacity of our highway system has only grown 2 percent. Even an English major like me can do that math,” he said, adding, “It seems we’ve discovered the formula for congestion.”
And that’s especially true when you consider Colorado is likely to add 2 million residents in the next 20 years.
The governor actually received a sustained ovation when he declared, “Let’s find a way to permanently put new money into roads so we can truly solve Colorado’s transportation problems.” But of course the question is: What source of money is available— not only for roads but for the K- 12 schools that remain below funding levels reached prior to the Great Recession?
Hickenlooper reaffirmed his support for converting $ 750 million in “hospital provider fees” to an enterprise fund so the state can keep more of the taxes it already collects rather than issue refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. “If we make this fix,” he declared, “the TABOR limit won’t be one penny higher than what voters gave us in Referendum C.”
He is correct. The Ref C cap, which eliminated the original “ratchet- down” effect of TABOR and pegged spending to inflation plus population growth, won’t be affected— which is one reason we support the conversion, too.
Ref C was approved by voters in 2005, before the hospital fee was even enacted. And that fee should not have been put in the state general fund in the first place.
Hickenlooper made a strong case for action, but whether it moved anyone remains to be seen. We still suspect voters will have to make the ultimate decision on finding the elusive revenue source that can alleviate the problems the governor described.