Colorful Commentary

Federal Budget Watch, May 3

Posted May 3, 2017 by Samantha Curran

binoculars-954021_1280New changes and developments surrounding the AHCA 2.0 bill appears to be “winning back” moderate R no votes. Today is an incredibly crucial day in stopping this bill and your help is needed.

Please call your members of Congress and urge them to vote no. The new bill is still fatally flawed. Don’t let the promise of increased funds for high risk pools fool you. Coverage is at risk for millions.

More information on why this bill is detrimental below. 

According to the latest intel from our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, it is very possible the AHCA bill could go to the House and pass tomorrow. In fact, some moderate R members have gone as far as to publicly say they think this bill will pass in the House. Below are some key points on the updated bill:

  1. GOP leadership is indicating they have the votes and both they and the White House are pushing HARD for a vote tomorrow.
  2. The Upton-Long amendment – congressional leaders are reportedly considering adding an additional $8 billion in federal funding for high risk pools, to try to solve the problems the AHCA would create for people with pre-existing conditions. But this would come nowhere close to addressing the bill’s funding shortfalls, or solving the other problems it creates for people with pre-existing conditions. This promises to be a dangerous fig leaf moderates can hide behind to justify voting for this bill.
  3. As of this morning, this change has won back some key House R moderates – Long, Upton, Gosar, Barletta and several New York R’s. The good news is there are still many leaners/undecideds still out there – and the facts/tools are on our side to keep the pressure on them to vote no.
  4. All of the harmful provisions in this bill still exist – this does nothing to address the gutting of subsidies, the taking away of pre-existing condition protections, and the other negative elements of this bill. This is a really important point we need to focus on.

Our Goal Today & How You Can Help:

  • Get moderates who are public NO votes to RE-COMMIT to voting no today. We want to be sure they haven’t been taken in on this addition of funds to the risk pools. If they re-commit as a no, consider a Thank You for standing strong against any bill that does not improve coverage, access and affordability to healthcare.
  • Flood the leaners/undecideds with phone calls, emails, posts, tweets – we recognize this is the work you’ve already been pushing, but it’s working! And if you have anything left in the tank to turn it up a notch, this is the time to make that ask. The goal is to make sure these members know 1) there are MANY people in their district engaged and watching how they will vote 2) it’s not going to be worth it to vote yes on this, because they will be held accountable in their districts.

Background and key points

An earlier amendment to the House bill, offered by Representative MacArthur, would let states waive the ACA’s prohibition on charging people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums and its requirement that all health insurance plans cover basic services. Now, congressional leaders are reportedly considering adding an additional $8 billion in federal funding to the bill to try to solve the problems that approach would create for people with pre-existing conditions. It’s not clear whether the $8 billion would go toward state high risk pools, or toward some other purpose. But either way, it would come nowhere close to addressing the bill’s funding shortfalls, or solving the other problems it creates for people with pre-existing conditions.

$8 billion falls far short of what is needed to make high-risk pools minimally sustainable. The $8 billion reported increases represent a 6 percent increase in the $130 billion the bill already included for grants to states, funding states could use for high-risk pools. But experts have concluded that – even if all $130 billion were used for high-risk pools – that would still leave these pools underfunded by at least $200 billion (other experts have arrived at much higher estimates). Over 10 years, the $8 billion increase would be insufficient to fill the funding shortfall for Michigan, Missouri, Colorado, much less nationwide.

High-risk pools also have more fundamental flaws. Where the ACA made it possible for people with pre-existing conditions to get the same kinds of insurance as everyone else, the amended House bill would segregate them in high-risk pools that pool sick people with even sicker people. Historically, that led to coverage with very high premiums, benefit exclusions, annual and lifetime limits, and other problems – even when pools were sufficiently funded to avoid waiting lists.

Equally important, the House bill creates other major problems for people with pre-existing conditions that an additional $8 billion doesn’t even purport to solve. These include:

  • Allowing insurers to go back to putting annual and lifetime limits on coverage for people with employer plans. Importantly, if even one state takes advantage of the MacArthur amendment to largely or entirely eliminate requirements for plans to cover essential health benefits, then large employer plans in every state could go back to imposing lifetime and annual limits on coverage. As a Brookings analysis explains, that’s because the ACA’s ban on lifetime and annual limits only applies to essential health benefits, and large employers get to decide which state’s definition of essential health benefits they want to adopt. This means that, even if Republicans altered their bill to protect people with pre-exiting conditions in the individual market, millions of people with pre-existing conditions who have coverage through their employer would be back to a world where they had to worry about exhausting their benefits each year – or for life. Before the ACA, 70 million people covered by large employers, including millions of children, had lifetime limits on benefits, meaning their health insurance coverage could end – for good – in the middle of a serious illness.
  • Effectively ending Medicaid expansion. Under the House bill, the federal government would no longer provide enhanced funding for new Medicaid enrollees after 2019, forcing most or all of the 31 states and Washington D.C. that have adopted the ACA’s Medicaid expansion to drop it. Medicaid expansion currently covers 11 million people who have high rates of pre-existing conditions. For example, almost 30 percent of those benefiting from Medicaid expansion have a mental illness or substance use disorder. This means that even if Republicans altered their bill to protect people with pre-existing conditions in the individual market, millions of people with pre-existing conditions would still lose coverage and access to care as a result of the bill. 
  • Dramatically raising premiums for older Americans84 percent of people age 55-64 have pre-existing health conditions. Under the House bill, older consumers could be charged premiums five times higher than younger consumers and would also see reduced tax credits. This means that even if Republicans altered their bill to drop the amendment allowing people to be charged more because of their health status, millions of people with pre-existing conditions would face unaffordable premiums because of their age. Moreover, high-risk pools are only intended to serve those with the most serious health conditions, but many older people have pre-existing conditions like hypertension and asthma that likely would not qualify them for high-risk pools, but could still expose them to additional premium surcharges.

Principles for Healthcare – any bipartisan measure or proposal should meet the below standards:

Access to coverage: Proposals must, relative to current law:

  • Increase or maintain the number of people with health insurance
  • Improve or maintain the stability of the individual insurance market

Affordability of coverage: Proposals must, relative to current law:

  • Reduce or maintain the net premiums people pay
  • Reduce or not increase deductibles and other cost sharing charges
  • Not make coverage less affordable or adequate for people with low incomes

Quality of coverage: Proposals must, relative to current law:

  • Retain benefit standards, including essential health benefits and protections against discrimination
  • Not make coverage less affordable, adequate or accessible for people with pre-existing or chronic conditions or those in poorer health

We need to do everything we can to keep pressure on the House moderate Republicans – to make sure those who were earlier NOs stay that way. Ask Colorado members to commit to opposing any bill or provision that causes millions of people to lose coverage, ends the ACA Medicaid expansion, shifts hundreds of billions of Medicaid costs to states, or makes individual market coverage less affordable.

Contact info for Colorado congressional delegation:

Sen. Cory Gardner – 303-391-5777  Email here.

Sen. Michael Bennet – 303-455-7600 / 866-455-9866 Email here.

Rep. Diana DeGette (CO District 1) –  303-844-4988 Email here.

Rep. Jared Polis (CO District 2) – 303-484-9596  Email here.

Rep. Scott Tipton (CO District 3) – 970-241-2499 Email here.

Rep. Ken Buck (CO District 4) – 970-702-2136   Email here.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO District 5) – 719-520-0055   Email here.

Rep. Mike Coffman (CO District 6) – 720-748-7514  Email here.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter  (CO District 7) – 303-274-7944 Email here.

Bars and Graphs, CFI’s End of Session Wrappy Hour

Posted May 3, 2017 by Caitlin Schneider

Bars and Graphs
CFI’s End of Session Wrappy Hour 
Tuesday, May 23, 2017 

Join us as we raise a glass to celebrate the end of the legislative session at our annual Bars and Graphs Legislative Wrappy Hour. You’ll get a brief wrap up of what happened during this year’s session and learn where things stand with the State budget. Bars and Graphs will be held at Vine Street Pub and Brewery; RSVP today as space is limited!

Bars and Graphs
Tuesday, May 23, 2017 
5:00 – 6:30 pm
(Program will begin around 5:30)
Vine Street Pub and Brewery
1700 Vine St. 
Denver, CO 80206

You won’t want to miss this event, RSVP today! 

Federal Budget Watch, April 26

Posted April 26, 2017 by Samantha Curran

binoculars-954021_1280Our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities sent us this urgent missive this afternoon. Please take note and contact your members of Congress:

We could see a vote on a modified health care proposal in the House as early as this Friday!

The proposal has just won the support of the conservative House Republican Freedom Caucus — which heightens the chances significantly that the bill could pass.

Over the recess, the leader of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Meadows, negotiated a provision to add to the original House AHCA bill with Rep. MacArthur, one of the leaders of the moderate Republican “Tuesday Group.” The change is portrayed as protecting coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, but in fact, it makes it more likely that millions of Americans will see their premiums rise and/or lose access to their health coverage.

The modification would:

  • Roll back key pre-existing conditions protections: just like before the ACA, discrimination based on pre-existing conditions would be allowed except in states that chose to prohibit it.
  • Roll back nationwide standards that require plans to cover services like mental health and substance use treatment and maternity care, and that prohibit lifetime and annual limits.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a great paper explaining how these provisions would make the AHCA even worse. Read it here:

While the agreement was portrayed as a “deal” between moderate and conservative Republicans in the House, it turns out this change was nothing more than an agreement between Reps. Meadows and MacArthur. Unfortunately, that has now changed with the endorsement of the Freedom Caucus (which only serves to underscore concerns about the impact of the change).

Unless moderate Republicans oppose the measure, it will pass and go to the Senate which would then come under intense pressure to act. There are still very strong reasons for moderate Republicans to oppose this modified AHCA bill. This group has indicated consistently that they are worried about protecting the Medicaid expansion in their states, and about protecting coverage for Essential Health Benefits and pre-existing conditions. Yet the modified AHCA bill retains the elimination of the Medicaid expansion – and effectively the end of Medicaid as we know it (the per capita cap/the $880 billion cut), and only further weakens these critical consumer protections.

Specifically, the bill:

  • Still causes 24 million people to lose coverage: 1 in 10 non-elderly people who would otherwise have insurance would lose it.
  • Still effectively ends the ACA Medicaid expansion.
  • Still cuts $840 billion from Medicaid over 10 years, with most of the savings going to wealthy people and insurance, pharmaceutical, and other corporations.
  • Still increases premiums and deductibles for marketplace consumers, with total out-of-pocket costs increasing by an average of $3,600 – and far more for older people, lower-income people, and people in high-cost states.

In short, for moderate Republicans who had announced their opposition, there’s no reason for them to change their position. For those moderates who had not yet indicated their position, there is no excuse to support this bill given the harm it would do.

Considering these developments, we hope you will move quickly in the next 24-48 hours to ensure that Colorado’s House Republicans and Senators know that the modified AHCA bill would have tremendously harmful impacts on Colorado.

It is important to place a lot of pressure on Rep. Mike Coffman, who is currently undecided. Rep. Mike Coffman (CO District 6) can be contacted at: 720-748-7514 or through Email here.

Below are some messaging points to follow when contacting Representatives and Senators:

The modified Republican plan will make the underlying AHCA bill even worse. It is no compromise and it is certainly not a “deal” to the millions of Americans whose coverage will be impacted negatively:

  • People could be charged more if they had a pre-existing condition, putting affordable insurance out of reach for millions of Americans
  • Plans would no longer be required to cover services like mental health and substance use treatment, or maternity care – effectively allowing women to be charged more than men
  • People could again be subject to lifetime and annual limits on the coverage they get – meaning a medical catastrophe could once again mean bankruptcy

In short, ask Colorado members to commit to opposing any bill or provision that causes millions of people to lose coverage, ends the ACA Medicaid expansion, shifts hundreds of billions of Medicaid costs to states, or makes individual market coverage less affordable.

Contact info for Colorado congressional delegation:

Sen. Cory Gardner – 303-391-5777  Email here.

Sen. Michael Bennet – 303-455-7600 / 866-455-9866 Email here.

Rep. Diana DeGette (CO District 1) –  303-844-4988 Email here.

Rep. Jared Polis (CO District 2) – 303-484-9596  Email here.

Rep. Scott Tipton (CO District 3) – 970-241-2499 Email here.

Rep. Ken Buck (CO District 4) – 970-702-2136   Email here.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO District 5) – 719-520-0055   Email here.

Rep. Mike Coffman (CO District 6) – 720-748-7514  Email here.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter  (CO District 7) – 303-274-7944 Email here.

Federal Budget Watch, April 17

Posted April 17, 2017 by Samantha Curran

binoculars-954021_1280The outlook on health care reform in the House remains unclear as Congress enters the second and last week of its recess — yet key Republican leaders have noted that there are ongoing negotiations with the goal of bringing a consensus bill to the House floor soon after recess.

The conservative Freedom Caucus members continue to insist that the underlying House health reform bill (ACHA) be modified to address some of their concerns, e.g., with Essential Health Benefits (EHBs). Press reports this week revealed discussions underway between the Freedom Caucus leaders and representatives of the so-called “Tuesday Group” of moderate Republicans.

However, as this story indicates (http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/328769-gop-centrists-push-back-on-obamacare-repeal), there’s no indication that moderates are budging from their opposition to anything that undercuts EHBs or pre-existing condition coverage. In fact, some leaders of the moderate Republicans have called for an entirely different approach: negotiating some limited changes to the ACA with Democrats. While this is not likely to happen in the House, it underscores the sharp differences that continue to divide House Republicans over health care reform, let alone between House and Senate Republicans.

We must, however, take seriously the continued push to bring a bill to the House floor soon after the recess. There appears to be a strong consensus among House Republican leaders and many in the Caucus (but not all) that the House simply must pass something on health reform, even if the Senate doesn’t act on it. President Trump said last week that Congress must finish health care reform before moving to tax reform.

When Congress returns next Tuesday, the major and most immediate business will be to avoid a government shut-down with the temporary budget “continuing resolution” (CR) expiring on April 28th. Intense negotiations are expected among Congressional leaders, and we understand it’s quite possible that the April 28th deadline will be extended for another week. This will shift attention from health care to the CR for at least the first week after recess.

House Republican leaders are coming under growing pressure from the Senate and other House Republicans to resolve this issue of health care reform one way or the other so that they can move forward on tax reform, an area that many Republicans think may be easier to pass (even with Democratic support, potentially) than health care.

Contact info for Colorado congressional delegation:

Sen. Cory Gardner – 303-391-5777 Email here.
Sen. Michael Bennet – 303-455-7600 / 866-455-9866 Email here.
Rep. Diana DeGette (CO District 1) – 303-844-4988 Email here.
Rep. Jared Polis (CO District 2- 303-484-9596 ) Email here.
Rep. Scott Tipton (CO District 3)- 970-241-2499 Email here.
Rep. Ken Buck (CO District 4)- 970-702-2136 Email here.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO District 5)- 719-520-0055 Email here.
Rep. Mike Coffman (CO District 6)- 720-748-7514 Email here.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO District 7) – 303-274-7944 Email here.

 

Federal Budget Watch, April 10

Posted April 10, 2017 by Carol Hedges

binoculars-954021_1280The two-week Easter/Passover recess is upon us and members are leaving town with only one legislative work-week left before the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on April 28. What does this mean for House Republicans budget and health care plans? Let’s get right into this week’s Federal Budget Watch.

Policymakers will either need to negotiate a final FY17 appropriations measure or, as we understand, they may extend the April 28 deadline by another week or so to give them time to negotiate a compromise.

Constructive bipartisan bicameral negotiations are underway that cover both funding levels and policy riders. The ability of negotiators to reach a bipartisan deal depends more on the outcome of the policy riders than it does on funding levels. Based on press reports, it appears the president’s request for extra FY17 money for defense and preliminary funding for the border wall will not be included in this measure.

Along with health care work looming, we expect Congress to spend the next month wrapping up spending bills for the rest of FY17. We understand that President Trump’s complete budget will be released in mid-May and congressional leaders will begin working on a budget resolution for FY18 with reconciliation instructions expected for tax reform. That said, some Republicans are already expressing some skepticism about whether House and Senate Republicans can come to an agreement on an FY18 budget. If they are unable to reach agreement on a conference report, then they will not be able to use reconciliation to advance tax reform/tax cut.

Both House and Senate discussions on tax reform are heating up. A top priority for the administration and Republicans leaders is a proposal advanced by President Trump during his campaign, which is a much lower top rate for “pass-through” business income. We expect this proposal, often mistakenly described as a tax cut for small business, to be considered. Here’s a new fact sheet from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the first in a forthcoming series of short two-pagers on various tax-reform proposals.

Health Care Roller Coaster

After a whirlwind week of negotiations among House Republicans on their proposal to repeal and replace the ACA, it’s clear that Congress will leave town for the Easter/Passover two-week recess period without any further legislative movement on health proposals. Notwithstanding intense pressure from the Trump Administration, House Republican leaders were unable to forge a compromise between the conservative Freedom Caucus and the moderate Republican so-called “Tuesday group.”

Not to say there wasn’t a little excitement: early Thursday morning, the House made plans for an emergency session of the House Rules Committee to consider a proposal to provide $15 billion for a new Federal Invisible Risk Sharing Program to help insurers with the high-cost patients who have certain health conditions.

This blog from Edwin Park explains why this proposal would have a very modest impact. Moreover, this proposal was designed as an amendment to the original American Health Care Act (AHCA) health reconciliation that Republicans leaders were unable to move on the House floor in late March – meaning there is no improvement in Medicaid or the other flawed aspects of the bill that led to strong opposition to the measure.

Bottom line: we are still talking about the same very harmful bill with deep Medicaid cuts.

So, the outlook for action in the House remains uncertain – and yet it’s clear that Republican leaders have not given up trying to secure agreement on a plan that can pass the House floor which underscore the importance of continued work over recess when members are back home.

It’s still possible that a modified health reconciliation bill will be brought to the House floor in May if the Republican caucus can agree to a plan. As long as a core group of House Republicans remain opposed to the plan given its harsh treatment of Medicaid and the significant loss of health care coverage for millions of Americans, there is a strong chance of continued success in blocking this.

As we have noted in the past, if the House Republicans do rally around one plan and manage to pass it, there will be tremendous pressure on the Senate to take up the measure as long as it comports with the Senate’s strict rules for a reconciliation bill.

If the House fails to reach agreement and can’t pass a comprehensive health repeal and replace reconciliation measure, this does NOT mean the health care battles are over. To the contrary. Last week’s news about the health plans pulling out of Iowa have only served to deepen policymakers concerns about “market stability,” and we could see discrete proposals to address this when Congress returns in late April.

Assuming the House doesn’t pass a bill, the dynamic in the Senate appears to be shifting already to focusing to smaller proposals and whether any bipartisan agreement is feasible.  For example, Senators Alexander and Corker are working to build bipartisan support for their bill, S.761 (Health Care Options Act of 2017), which would allow people in areas without a plan in the marketplace to use premium tax credits for plans outside the marketplace even if the plans don’t meet current requirements for coverage. The bill would not help most people now in the marketplace because the premium credits wouldn’t be payable in advance and there wouldn’t be any cost-sharing subsidies.

There is very little question that the House and Senate will take up at some point other legislation that revises the Affordable Care Act, or will attempt to change the ACA – and possibly Medicaid – on other health measures.

The Senate will consider bipartisan legislation to extend FDA’s user fees this spring, and we are hopeful that ACA-related amendments to the bill will be soundly rejected. Later this year, the House and Senate must act to extend CHIP funding as well as some expiring health provisions. Hence the need for continued strong efforts to protect and preserve the ACA and Medicaid back in members’ home districts.

Contact info for Colorado congressional delegation:

Sen. Cory Gardner – 303-391-5777 Email here.
Sen. Michael Bennet – 303-455-7600 / 866-455-9866 Email here.
Rep. Diana DeGette (CO District 1) – 303-844-4988 Email here.
Rep. Jared Polis (CO District 2- 303-484-9596 ) Email here.
Rep. Scott Tipton (CO District 3)- 970-241-2499 Email here.
Rep. Ken Buck (CO District 4)- 970-702-2136 Email here.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO District 5)- 719-520-0055 Email here.
Rep. Mike Coffman (CO District 6)- 720-748-7514 Email here.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO District 7) – 303-274-7944 Email here.

Federal Budget Watch, April 5

Posted April 5, 2017 by Samantha Curran

binoculars-954021_1280We, like you, have been regrouping on the health care front after the House GOP’s efforts to repeal the ACA and gut Medicaid astoundingly imploded. While Republicans found it exceedingly difficult to reach an agreement on their health care repeal efforts, it is clear we are not out of the woods in terms of federal health threats this year.

 The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ legislative team has put together a memo that walks through the legislative and administrative vehicles in which we could continue to see more efforts to move ACA changes and weaken Medicaid and the Medicaid expansion. The operative word for the coming months is vigilance. The full memo can be found here.

It is completely possible that House members try yet again to move the AHCA in the coming weeks, particularly given that many GOP members are feeling nervous about returning home to constituents during the upcoming April recess without having made good on their campaign promises to repeal the ACA. It’s vital that we all keep up the drumbeat against the GOP’s healthcare plans.

We hope you will continue to put pressure on Colorado’s moderate House Republicans and senators via direct outreach and social media in the next two weeks to get them on the record pledging to:

  • Stand firm in protecting both the Medicaid expansion and the underlying Medicaid program, including by opposing proposals that phase out expansion over time, or cap Medicaid spending via a “per capita cap” that shifts costs and risk to states.
  • Oppose any bill that would result in millions of people losing coverage or face higher costs.
  • Oppose any effort that would destabilize the marketplaces.
  • Move on from this partisan effort to repeal the ACA and instead work together in a bipartisan way to improve our health care system.

The upcoming April recess, the week of April 10, is a particularly vital time to make this public push on members. We need to continue to push those who publicly came out against the AHCA and make sure they stand firm against the principles listed above. Below are the House moderate Republicans who were confirmed NO votes on the AHCA for reference.

In short, we need to do all that we can to ensure that the AHCA is truly dead as dead.

Confirmed NO votes from moderate R’s

FL-27     Ileana Ros-Lehtinen – Press Release  – Thurs. March 23rd
IA-3        David Young – Press Release – Wed. March 22nd
NC-3      Walter Jones – Statement to the Press – Friday March 24th
NJ-2       Frank A. LoBiondo – Press Release – Wed. March 22nd
NJ-4       Christopher H. Smith – Statement to the Press – Wed. March 22nd
NJ-7       Leonard Lance – Statement to the Press – March 14th
NJ-11     Rodney Frelinghuysen – Press Release – Friday March 24th
NV-2      Mark Amodei – Tweet –  Thurs. March 23rd
NY-11    Dan Donovan – Press Release – Wed. March 22nd
NY-24    John Katko – Press Release – March 17th
OH-14   David Joyce – Tweet – Friday March 24th
PA-8      Brian Fitzpatrick – Press Release – Wed. March 22nd
PA-5      Glenn Thompson – Statement – March 18th
PA-15    Charlie Dent – Press Release – Thurs. March 23rd
VA-1      Rob Wittman – Statement – Monday March 20th
VA-10    Barbara Comstock – Press Release – Friday March 24th
WA-3     Jaime Herrera Beutler – Press Release – Thurs. March 23rd

Minority Leaders Pelosi and Schumer Letter to President Trump

Last week, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to President Donald Trump, insisting the administration meet its responsibility to implement the law and not sabotage the Affordable Care Act. The letter also urges President Trump to work with Democrats to strengthen health care and further reduce costs for the American people.

As Leader Pelosi and Leader Schumer write, “Democrats have always been ready to work across the aisle to improve and update the Affordable Care Act. It is our hope that we can work together to prevent the increase in premiums and other health care costs for hard-working Americans, including the soaring cost of prescription drugs — a vital issue you have raised in the past.”

Read the full letter here.

Senate Democrat Letter to President Trump

Also last week, Senate Democrats released a new letter to President Trump urging him and his administration to abandon their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and undermine the United States health care system so they can work in a bipartisan fashion to improve the law and lower the costs of health care for all Americans.

The letter, signed by 44 Senate Democrats, also requests — as a first step — that the Trump administration rescind the executive order signed on Jan. 20, 2017, which severely undermined the Affordable Care Act and sparked the efforts to unravel the law, thereby undermining the health care system and increasing costs, hurting patients, providers and families. Senate Democrats also expressed concern with President Trump’s recent statement indicating it would be a good thing to make the ACA “explode” — despite the fact that would mean hurting millions of Americans.

Read the full letter here.

Contact info for Colorado congressional delegation:

Sen. Cory Gardner – 303-391-5777 Email here.
Sen. Michael Bennet – 303-455-7600 / 866-455-9866 Email here.
Rep. Diana DeGette (CO District 1) – 303-844-4988 Email here.
Rep. Jared Polis (CO District 2- 303-484-9596 ) Email here.
Rep. Scott Tipton (CO District 3)- 970-241-2499 Email here.
Rep. Ken Buck (CO District 4)- 970-702-2136 Email here.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO District 5)- 719-520-0055 Email here.
Rep. Mike Coffman (CO District 6)- 720-748-7514 Email here.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO District 7) – 303-274-7944 Email here.

Increasing access to driver’s licenses is good for Colorado’s economy

Posted March 31, 2017 by Thamanna Vasan

Today, the House Appropriations Committee voted on House Bill 17-1206, passing the bill out of committee and to the House floor. This bill will broaden the forms of identification that can be used by undocumented immigrants to acquire a driver’s license to include social security numbers. In addition, HB 1206 allows these individuals to renew their valid licenses, reducing wait times for those who have already been through the process once and who retain their driving privileges.

Increasing access for driver’s licenses to immigrants, regardless of documentation status, makes Colorado roads and communities safer. Licensed drivers become more knowledgeable about traffic laws, purchase insurance and register their vehicles, all of which can result in greater savings in automobile insurance premiums for all Colorado drivers.

In 2o13, Colorado passed the Colorado Road and Community Safety Act, authorizing the issuance of a Colorado driver’s license, instruction permit or identification card to individuals who either cannot demonstrate lawful presence in the U.S. or can only demonstrate temporary lawful presence in the U.S.

However, the current process is riddled with roadblocks that limit funding and access.

The program requires annual reauthorization of funding and is subject to a cap, increasing wait time and reducing access. Currently, there are only three offices in urban areas of the state that offer appointments for undocumented immigrants and appointments are capped at 66,000 in total; even though there are an estimated 142,000 undocumented immigrants that would use this program.

 

Immigration Infograph

What are the benefits of increasing access to driver’s licenses for all immigrants and who else does it?

 

In addition, the forms of identification that can be used to get a license are also limited. Over the years, many immigrants have received social security numbers. While the immigration status that these individuals are under might have expired or changed, the numbers are still valid. Unfortunately, under the 2013 Colorado Road and Community Safety Act, social security numbers were not included as valid identification, further slowing down the process.

The Colorado Fiscal Institute believes that these HB 1206 includes necessary and useful changes to the existing program. The changes will increase accessibility, allowing communities to reap the economic and social benefits of providing driver’s licenses to all immigrants.

 

Want to learn more about the benefits of providing driver’s licenses to all immigrants? Check out CFI’s driver’s license report and infographic to learn more about savings in premiums, economic contributions due to driver’s license programs and much more!

 

impact of immigration screenshot english infograph whole screenshot spanish infograph whole screenshot
The Impact of Allowing All Immigrants Access to Driver’s Licenses  Learn more about the economic benefits (premium savings and additional state revenue) Impact of Allowing All Immigrants Access to Driver’s Licenses (Infograph) El Impacto de Permitirle a Todos Los Inmigrantes el Acceso a las Licencias de Conducir (Infograph)

 

Raise the Sales Tax, Fund Roads, and Provide Affordable Transit; CFI’s Take on HB17-1242

Posted March 29, 2017 by Chris Stiffler

by Chris Stiffler

CFI Economist

commuting trafficHouse Bill 17-1242, which would ask voters to approve a sales tax increase to provide additional funding for roads and transportation, is working its way through the Capitol. If passed by voters, the current state sales tax rate of 2.9 percent would increase to 3.52 percent.

The sales tax increase would generate an additional $651 million for Colorado in 2018. (It’s interesting to note, that the revenue from this sales tax increase is almost equal to the amount of revenue lost this year by cutting the income tax rate from 5% to 4.63%, as the legislature did in the late ’90s.).

If we want more revenue for transportation, raising new revenue is the only option. Cutting from other parts of the state budget is the wrong track. Right now, our state’s constitutional restraints on revenue force us into awkward budget dilemmas. Our economy is growing but our elected leaders can’t use the revenue that comes from normal economic growth to fund the priorities that build thriving communities. Instead we trade cuts for schools for cuts in long-term care for seniors.  We eke out a road budget as we try to keep tuition affordable.

These are false choices that lawmakers have been forced to make for years amid a backdrop of  an outdated tax code coupled with forced tax rebates. This state simply doesn’t have enough revenue to do the things it needs to build thriving communities, and our communities can’t afford to pilfer existing revenue from the general fund to do what we need to do.

An increase in the state sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent would be the largest infusion of revenue for transportation in decades. But because it would increase the sales tax, a tax that already falls more heavily on people with lower incomes, we strongly urge that such a tax increase be coupled with a way to offset costs for these families by reserving some of the new revenue to make public transit more affordable for low-income Coloradans

Let’s be clear about something. At this point in Colorado, nearly any tax increase that does not involve a progressive, or graduated, income tax is regressive. This means that it will consume a greater portion of the earnings of lower income Coloradans. But TABOR, specifically forbids Colorado from returning to a graduated income tax, a system we had for decades and one used by all but a few states.

Currently, a Colorado household making $35,000 a year pays 4.6 percent of its income in sales tax, while a household earning $140,000 pays 2.2 percent in sales tax. With a sales tax increase to 3.52 percent, that $35,000 earning household would pay an additional $125 a year in sales tax to help fund roads, while the $140,000 earning household would pay about $290 more in sales tax. Though the higher-earning household pays more sales tax in actual dollars, it’s the lower-earning household that will pay the higher percentage of its income in sales tax.

This biased treatment of taxpayers, should be addressed.

Right now, a typical low-wage transit user in Denver pays about $80 a month in fares or about $960 annually. Increasing the state sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent would significantly increase the amount of money that low income transit users contribute for transportation in the state.

It’s only fair that this additional contribution should be acknowledged and offset. CFI believes that reserving money from the sales tax increase for transit agencies to make fares more affordable for low-income users is the best available way to address the bias built into a sales tax increase. For example, if RTD offered the same half-off fare it currently provides seniors, students and the disabled, to people earning up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level, it could greatly offset the regressive nature of a sales tax increase.

Although the sales tax is a regressive form of taxation, it does have the benefit of generating revenue from tourists.  Twenty three percent of the new revenue would come from out-of-state individuals, so tourists visiting Colorado would help contribute to our roads. A higher portion of Colorado’s gas tax revenue is paid by out-of-state residents at 33 percent, but the gas tax is even more regressive than the sales tax.

It is time to ask voters if they are ready to pay more for a better transportation system and it makes sense that we raise those new funds in ways that don’t make those making the least take on an unfair share of the responsibility for paying for the improvements.

Action Needed NOW to Defeat House ACA Repeal Bill

Posted March 24, 2017 by Samantha Curran

exclamation-point-1421014_640The House will vote THIS AFTERNOON on the House Republican health bill.

We need to do everything we can to keep pressure on the House moderate Republicans – to make sure those who were earlier NOs stay that way.

It is not too late to keep calls and emails flowing into key House moderates’ offices to push Members to publicly oppose the health care repeal bill. We need public statements on the record so wavering Members will be less likely to flip.

Please call Representative Mike Coffman TODAY and strongly urge him to vote no on the House ACA repeal bill.

 

Contact Information for Rep. Mike Coffman:

Rep. Mike Coffman (CO District 6)- 720-748-7514  Email here.

Key messages to convey include that the House health care repeal bill:

  • Increases the number of uninsured by 24 million people
  • Makes coverage unaffordable for millions of Americans – raising premiums and out-of-pocket costs, while raising taxes for many working families
  • Removing Essential Health Benefits means that insurance plans will not cover even the barebones of basic services, even prescription drugs, that people need to treat their conditions to stay healthy.  Women will be charged more than men and lifetime limits are back.

The results could come down to just several House moderates’ positions. How this goes down today will have big ripple effects on whether the Senate has the time to move their legislation next week before the April recess or whether we live to fight another day.

Your voice is needed now. Call Rep. Mike Coffman to share information on why this bill is bad for Colorado.  

Contact info for Colorado congressional delegation:

Sen. Cory Gardner – 303-391-5777  Email here.

Sen. Michael Bennet – 303-455-7600 / 866-455-9866 Email here.

Rep. Diana DeGette (CO District 1) – 303-844-4988 Email here.

Rep. Jared Polis (CO District 2- 303-484-9596 ) Email here.

Rep. Scott Tipton (CO District 3)- 970-241-2499 Email here.

Rep. Ken Buck (CO District 4)- 970-702-2136   Email here.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO District 5)- 719-520-0055   Email here.

Rep. Mike Coffman (CO District 6)- 720-748-7514  Email here.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter  (CO District 7) – 303-274-7944 Email here.

March Sadness: HB 1187 should’ve been a slam dunk

Posted March 22, 2017 by Carol Hedges

 

By Carol Hedges

CFI Executive Director

This bill should've been a slam dunk.

How we wish the hearing on Monday would’ve gone

I know, I know. The March Madness analogies are getting stale but please bear with a few more basketball references as I describe the truly “mad” March hearing I was a part of Monday. I am, after all, a born-and-raised KU Jayhawk basketball fan.

The Senate State Affairs Committee, on a 3-2 party-line vote, rejected a very modest measure to ask voters to let the state keep their taxes to use them for schools, roads, health care and colleges. It wasn’t like watching the South Carolina/Duke game where, although the South Carolina victory was a longshot, some people put their money on the Gamecocks. By comparison, this game was fixed from the start. The vote tally going into the committee was a foregone conclusion. No Cinderella story here; the ugly sisters smashed the glass slipper as soon as they saw it.

In the case of HB 1187, it was worse than a No. 16 vs. No. 1 game, a matchup never won by the 16 seed. The other team didn’t even show up and they won. And that is what has become of Colorado’s management of its fiscal affairs.

This measure should have been a slam dunk. There must have been close to 20 witnesses testifying on the bill with just three of those witnesses asking for a no vote from committee members. Their main argument was that the bill was unconstitutional, and that argument was swatted down by Legislative Legal Services like Shaquille O’Neal blocking a lay-up by Danny DeVito.

It was patiently and clearly explained that the bill was merely implementing a component of TABOR.

There was one halftime adjustment to the defense. The chairman asked why legislators had to vote to let the people decide. Why didn’t cities, counties, special districts and school districts just raise the money and lead the effort? Again, missing the mark by failing to acknowledge just how expensive it was to get these measures on the ballot and totally abdicating any leadership role for legislators.

It is a sad day indeed when one extreme segment of the political world can hold the entire rest of the state hostage to its self-serving world view. As more people clamor for a voice in our political decision making, the actions of a slim majority of the Senate State Affairs committee reinforced the deepest fears and disappointments of many — that too many of our elected officials are more worried about staying in power than they are about the views of the people.

HB 1187 represented a centrist approach to a vexing problem in Colorado, how to keep up with the demands of a growing economy. It had bipartisan support in both chambers. It had the support of the Denver Chamber of Commerce, the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, C3, Club 20, Colorado Farm Bureau, Progressive 15, Colorado Nonprofit Association, AARP, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Colorado Catholic Conference, Bell Policy Center and CFI and lots of members of Indivisible Colorado.

Yet a small group of extremist interests locked arms to block its consideration even by the full membership of the Senate, where it very well could have passed.

All this bill would have done was ask Colorado voters if they wanted to adopt the same playing court for economic growth used by the majority of other states with revenue limits — instead of the one we have now that simultaneously results in cuts and tax rebates. All this bill would have done is give Coloradans the chance to choose what to do with their dollars.

The valuable lesson learned was that the handful of extremists who support the false choices presented by our current fiscal system support the idea of asking voters only when the proposal benefits their narrow interests.

Unfortunately, Coloradans will not get a win for public schools and affordable higher education or even a chance for a win just now. But, in the spirit of a true sports fan, sometimes we have to take solace in the sentiment, “wait ‘til next year.”

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