Who understands severance tax?

Hint: It’s not the Denver Post

Who understands severance tax? Municipalities around the state understand severance tax.

The Denver Post – based on the editorial in this past Sunday’s newspaper – most definitely does not understand severance tax, as evidenced by its promotion of a dangerous proposal for the state to eliminate energy impact grants to municipalities and counties.

Many communities around the state, whether they have active drilling or mining occurring within or around them at this moment, have experienced the impacts of natural resource extraction from within or around their borders. They understand that even when the truck traffic thins out, the employees leave the restaurants and community centers, and the wells are shut in that the impacts do not go away. They know that communities suffer and some all but disappear.

Municipal leaders understand energy impacts. Municipal leaders understand state statutes that express legislative intent that the state be compensated for the depletion of natural resources from Colorado, and that impacted communities should receive a designated portion of that money to help mitigate the impacts. They understand that roads, bridges, water and wastewater infrastructure, public safety, and economic development potential are all part of the impacts.

In fact, the Post only suggests that money be diverted away from energy impacted communities and toward the General Assembly to “set aside for infrastructure,” even while acknowledging the fact that the state has diverted nearly $400 million in severance tax for local governments to backfill the state’s own budget and never to be seen again. Those diverted local government severance tax dollars were transferred from a fund that is actually set aside for infrastructure. Had the legislature left those dollars alone, the impact of the money would have been over $1 billion in infrastructure projects and accompanying wages right in the midst of the Great Recession.

It is as if the Denver Post thinks that mayors sit in town hall waiting for a golden goose from Denver to deliver a wad of cash so that they can “snip the ribbons on new recreation centers.” It will no doubt be quite a party in Salida when the water treatment upgrades are finished, just like the blowout they will have in Rangely when the wastewater treatment plant work is complete. Every project gets significant scrutiny from the Energy Impact Advisory Committee and, ultimately, Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Director Irv Halter. Matching requirements ensure every applicant has skin in the game. I encourage the Denver Post – or anyone who wants to see how DOLA’s impressive program is administered – to get more details from DOLA’s website.

Sadly, the Post misses the point entirely. Colorado Oil & Gas Association President & CEO Dan Haley actually said it best in a recent blog that the problem lies in the collective unwillingness at the Statehouse to “take on the complex Gordian knot of amendments such as TABOR, Gallagher and 23, that have tied up the state’s budget and stressed out lawmakers for decades.” The League wholeheartedly agrees. Regardless of who one agrees with at the capitol on what is to blame, the State of Colorado and its leaders must get the state’s fiscal house in order. The myopic, year-to-year approach to adopting a balanced budget creates a new bogeyman every year. (Two years ago – severance tax. Last year – hospital provider fee. This year – the Gallagher Amendment) Like some sort of modern-day Sisyphus, we will do it all again this year, as even more of the severance tax is proposed to backfill the state’s general fund.

The state’s budget constraints are a far larger matter. Regarding severance taxes, the right thing to do is to protect them and ensure they continue to be used for statewide infrastructure, just like the Post calls for. For now, the Colorado Municipal League will work with House and Senate leaders on a better approach – one that ensures that severance taxes reach their intended recipients (which, by the way, also include critical state water and environmental programs in the Department of Natural Resources.)

Legislators from rural Colorado, where most of the impacts occurred or are still occurring, will be asked to be part of the solution to protect communities that support and rely on a healthy, well-balanced economy. Legislators from more populated areas of the state will be asked to do their part to ensure that the needs of all Colorado’s communities are met and that we do not abandon those towns that help contribute so much to Colorado’s  diverse economy and rich history.

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2017 Legislative session: Snapshot of key municipal issues

As the First Regular Session of the 71st Colorado General Assembly prepares to get to work starting on January 11, 2017, the Colorado Municipal League is preparing to ensure that legislators – new and returning – understand key municipal issues that may be impacted by their decisions. While CML is planning to initiate some legislation, the League generally responds to legislation that is encouraged by others. In some cases, the state budget drives the discussion. Below is a brief description of some of the key issues that CML will be following on behalf of our 269 member cities and towns.

Transportation

Colorado’s state transportation funding revenues have not kept pace with the demands to maintain, improve, or expand infrastructure. The most recent state tax increase was the FASTER fee legislation in 2009.

In recent years, there have been various groups that have tried to find viable statewide funding or financing solutions – both through proposed initiatives and legislative proposals. Bonding proposals face the challenge of finding the resources within the state budget to pay the debt service. One approach would be to pay for debt service out of CDOT’s HUTF budget. However, his would result in reduction in the resources to maintain or operate state highways. Further, since there are not sufficient resources from the fuel tax to make the minimum annual debt service payments of $250 million for one particular proposal, the State General Fund would have to be used as well.

Because of the current constraints on the state’s General Fund, debt service payments would have to be offset by reducing spending in the state’s General Fund programs, unless there are new voter approved taxes or legislatively approved fees. CML believes additional revenue is needed to meet the burgeoning demand for transportation and transit infrastructure, in addition to the current need to bring road and bridge structures up to safe standards. The League will continue advocate for a statewide solution to address the transportation and transit needs of all municipalities in partnership with the state.

Municipal Courts

After the adoption of HB 16-1309, which mandated defense counsel at first appearance in certain municipal cases, CML worked with the governor’s office to fund the state mandate through the Office of the State Public Defender. CML will support a program for municipalities to utilize the state public defender at local discretion. In addition, restorative justice has proven to be an important tool to reduce recidivism in the state criminal justice system. CML supports state assistance for municipal courts to expand their use of restorative justice.

Sales and Use Tax

On average, more than 70 percent of municipal tax revenues are derived from sales and use taxes. CML discourages state sales tax exemptions that negatively impact statutory municipalities and cities without any local input. CML supports the state as a partner with the business community and municipalities that self-collect their sales and use taxes, but efforts to simplify local sales tax cannot be addressed by state legislation and cannot undermine constitutionally granted municipal home rule authority.

Marijuana

Private clubs and on-premise consumption

The ambiguity of the legal status of private clubs is an issue that is essential to clarify and local control should dictate whether or not they are ultimately allowed in any jurisdiction. The legislature fumbled the ball in 2013 when it eliminated consensus language from SB 13-283 that provided a definition of “open and public” to give meaning to the prohibition of open and public consumption in Amendment 64. CML will help initiate legislation creating an opt-in provision for private marijuana clubs and creating a statewide minimum definition of “open & public consumption.”

Black and gray markets

CML always supports maximum local control of medical and recreational marijuana issues. CML has argued that significant additional state resources and personnel are needed to mitigate the impact on local law enforcement of gray and black market marijuana activity. However, the League will support legislation that provides some revenue to local law enforcement to combat this illegal activity while noting that it may only make a small dent in this growing problem.

Maintaining prior agreements on taxation

A delicately forged compromise with counties on special excise taxes – an agreement that prevents double-taxation – was enacted in 2015. A similar proposal to give counties authority for special sales authority failed to advance because counties refused to agree to similar langauge prohibiting double taxation. Recently, the Court of Appeals affirmed that counties lack any authority to enact a special sales tax, and one county would like to change the terms of the 2015 deal special excise taxes. CML will oppose any legislation that changes compromises on local special excise taxation and supports barring counties from collecting a special sales tax from within a municipality without consultation and an intergovernmental agreement.

Severance Tax & Federal Mineral Lease

Declining extraction activity has reduced the revenue available to local governments to address ongoing impacts through direct distribution and grants from the Energy Impact Assistance Fund. Prior raids by the General Assembly from 2008-2013 siphoned off around $300 million to balance the state’s general fund – revenue that is sorely needed now to address ongoing issues. CML opposes reductions of severance tax and federal mineral lease revenue to municipalities and opposes the appropriation of local governments’ energy impact or direct distribution revenue to finance state programs and administrative costs of state government.

Telecommunications & Broadband

With voters in 65 municipalities and 27 counties having overwhelmingly voted to exempt themselves from the requirements of SB 05-152, CML would support repealing this unnecessary hurdle to bringing fast, reliable broadband to areas of the state where the private sector has not made it available. In addition, wireless companies are looking at proposals to amend statutes governing placement of telecommunications facilities in public rights of way, known as SB 10, to address “small cells.”  It is not clear that the language is needed, and initial proposed langauge included substantive changes that would further impair municipal authority. Discussions continue, but CML would oppose the legislation if introduced in its most recent form.

Urban Renewal & Downtown Development

Prior legislation impacting the effective and efficient use of urban renewal to remediate blight and restore prosperity to core areas of municipalities was somewhat improved with substantive cleanup legislation in the 2016 session. However, the statute is still replete with ambiguities that have placed a chilling effect on urban renewal plans that were already in place. CML supports continued repair to ambiguous language added to urban renewal statutes. Unfortunately, two counties that have issues with their local downtown development authority (DDA) wish to apply this same flawed language to DDA’s, which are similar but also distinctly different from their URA cousins. CML will oppose any legislation that would damage the ability of downtown development authorities to function properly.

As the legislative session unfolds, this site will continue to highlight details of key issues. For a snapshot of all the bills CML is tracking, links to the CML Statehouse Report (updated weekly), and a box score of legislation CML supports and opposes, please go to and bookmark this link to the current legislative session.

A brief summary of CML’s 2017 legislative priorities is available here, and the more detailed 2016-2017 CML Annual Policy Statement is available here. Each of these documents provide the foundation for CML’s established positions and guide CML’s deliberations on legislation that will soon be introduced in 2017.

Rarified air

Rarified air

Former city council member will lead the Colorado Senate

It only took 96 years!

The recent selection of Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, as the next President of the Colorado Senate signified a rather historic event that will likely go unnoticed by most people.  But not those of us in the municipal world that first knew Sen. Grantham as a city council member in Cañon City from 2007-2010!

President-designee Grantham will be the first Senate President that was also a former municipal elected official since Sen. George Stephan, R-Delta, who led the Senate from 1919-1920. Prior to that, there were only two other Senate Presidents with roots as local municipal elected officials:

  1. Erastus R. Harper, Jr., R-Denver, (President, 1907-1908) served as a council member for and mayor of Akron Ohio from 1893 – 1897. 
  2. Moses E. Lewis, R-Florence,(President, 1915-1916) was a Florence council member from 1899-1901.

Of additional significance, Sen. Grantham will be the first rural Senate President since John Vanderhoof from, R-Glenwood Springs, who served in that capacity from 1971-1973. A link to full, updated biographies of Colorado’s past Senate Presidents and Speakers of the House can be found on the General Assembly’s website.

It is not rare to have former municipal elected officials in leadership positions in the Statehouse.  In the House, the Majority Leader-designee is Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder, a former Boulder city council member. Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono, is the Majority Caucus Chair-designee and served on the Dacono city council. In the Senate, Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, is the Assistant Minority Leader-designee and was a member of the Pueblo city council. In a future post, CML will profile these and other former municipal officials that will serve in the 2017 General Assembly.

Congratulations, again, to President-designee and former Cañon City council member, Kevin Grantham!

The severance tax conundrum

Colorado statutes are clear.  Severance tax collected by the state gets divided in two parts – after the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) takes a chunk off the top. Half goes to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to be split equally between the department’s operational account and perpetual base account. The other half of severance tax revenue – the “local severance tax” – flows to the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA).

Within DOLA, 70% of the tax revenue goes to the Energy Impact Assistance Fund (grant fund) and the remaining 30% is directly distributed back to energy-impacted communities based on detailed impact metrics related to employee population, drilling/mining permits, and actual production.  The local severance tax is the only severance tax revenue that is used to mitigate the impacts of natural resource extraction. This is important when considering how the local revenue has been spent in the last decade.

NATURAL GAS LEAK IN WINDSOR, COLORADO

Following the 2007 legislative session, an interim process was established to visit the manner in which the severance tax and federal mineral lease (FML) revenues were distributed. The Colorado Municipal League and Colorado Counties, Inc. worked side by side to ensure that the local distributions were not reduced but that they were distributed to more accurately address impacts.  The result was legislation, supported by CML and CCI, which made changes to severance tax and FML distributions.

The ink was not even dry on the legislation before the recession, which had already been impacting state and local budgets, led the state to begin depleting cash funds to balance the state budget. From 2008-2012 and 2015, around $300 million of local severance tax revenue was swept to backfill the state’s budget – and the sweep in 2015 was actually in a year of dynamic state revenue growth and not a recession. Nearly 100% of the sweeps were from the grant fund, which meant that critical infrastructure related to energy impacts went largely unbuilt, and most of it in economically disadvantaged parts of the state where extraction activity had dropped dramatically.

Considering that municipalities and other local governments match grant dollars as much as 4 to 1, the loss of positive economic impact to mostly rural Colorado was over $1 billon. Jobs went unfilled, materials from local companies went unordered. While commitments have been made to attempt to restore other sources of funds that backfilled the state budget, there has not yet been one penny of local severance tax money repaid to the grant fund.

The question is how can local governments ensure that local severance revenues get to impacted local governments without being subject to fiscal pressures on the state’s Joint Budget Committee (JBC)?

Recent events freeze critical infrastructure projects

At the end of the 2016 session, a surprise decision by the Colorado Supreme Court left the legislature and the Department of Revenue (DOR) scrambling to figure out how to pay potential severance tax refunds to oil and gas companies as a result of the court’s decision.  The decision stated DOR was not interpreting a statute on severance tax deductions properly, which allows for companies to file amended returns to recapture the deduction. Initial fiscal impacts were as high as $400 million, but by the time emergency legislation (SB 16-218) was announced to pay for potential refunds, that amount was down to $115 million.

That same legislation also froze unencumbered funds for local energy impacts and programs in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The intent of freezing the funds was to make them available to repay the state’s general fund, and only majority vote of the JBC can unfreeze all or part of the funds. The immediate impact was to place in doubt at least $20 million of critical infrastructure projects awaiting prioritization for DOLA’s August grant cycle.

CML was highly critical of the JBC for not releasing some of the funds when the committee met in June, as industry representatives and others were already saying that the amount of refunds estimated by SB 218 was higher than that which was likely to be claimed. While the JBC certainly has the right and the responsibility to ensure the budget remains balanced, energy impacted communities are once again unsure whether or not revenue intended to directly mitigate the impacts (past and present) of extraction activity will instead be used to plug a hole in the state budget.

One more chance for 2016 grant requests

The JBC will meet once again on August 1 to consider new information from DOR and industry representatives, as well as get the perspective of the Governor’s budgeting office on anticipated refunds and fiscal impacts. Discussions with JBC members led CML to believe that there may be a chance to authorized DOLA to continue with the August grant cycle, and the League would be greatly appreciative of such a decision by the JBC.

However, whether or not all of local governments’ $48 million currently frozen will ever make it to its statutorily designated recipients is not yet know.  Also not known is whether or not the JBC will consider repaying the general fund with other sources, such as the state unclaimed property trust fund.

CML will continue to be strong advocates for municipalities to get back their share of energy impact funds, including the $300 million that was captured to keep the state budget afloat in previous years.

2016 legislative session – not quite done

Legislators left May 11 but session actually ends on June 10

It is always interesting to read the final review of any legislative session written by legislators, lobbyists, and associations very soon after the final gavel falls. For legislators, their work is done, for the most part, and the campaign season (for many) kicks into full swing. For others, assessments are due to members, constituencies, and clients – and all begin writing reports right away.

That includes CML.  Lobbyists quickly compiled an article for the most recent CML Newsletter quickly summarizing “immediate attention” items have already been signed into law or that will become law upon the signature of Gov. John Hickenlooper. In addition, CML will publish online the 2016 Laws Enacted Affecting Colorado Municipalities once all legislation has been signed or vetoed. Finally, the CML advocacy team will spend time with our members assisting with inquiries about new laws and briefing members at sessions at the CML Annual Conference later this month.

However, all of this reporting and activity trying to let people know what happened often ignores that the legislative session is not over under the final vote has been cast.  Gov. Hickenlooper has the final vote, and the League asked him to cast it in favor of municipalities on two critical issues.

Municipalities in control of municipal streets

The governor has already vetoed HB 16-1231, which was both expected and appreciated. The bill would have implemented a total ban on the use of red light cameras as a public safety tool. The legislature wanted to act like a city council and take away the right of local citizens and their elected leaders to govern local themselves on local issues , and Gov. Hickenlooper correctly and thankfully said “no.” He stated that “the bill [denies] communities the right to decide for themselves based on their own traffic safety needs.”

Still one more vote to cast against a costly unfunded mandate

Both the Denver Post and the Pueblo Chieftain – and CML plus a whole lot of municipalities – have urged the governor to prevent a costly and unnecessary unfunded mandate on municipal courts by vetoing HB 16-1309. The key issues of opposition are in the editorials, as well as CML’s veto request, but essentially the legislation is based on the false premise that Colorado municipal courts are intentionally trying to jail indigent and homeless people or trump the right to counsel of all defendants in court.

These spurious accusations are as inaccurate as they are offensive, especially to dedicated municipal judges and court administrators, and the “solution” offered by HB 1309 is a costly unfunded mandate on municipal courts. It would require an attorney to be paid to be on standby in every municipal court on the offhand chance a defendant requested an attorney for an advisement (first appearance). It far exceeds the constitutional allowance for “reasonable time” to assign a defender, if one is requested. Without state funding to implement the requirement, it violates state law and the Taxpayers Bill of Rights prohibiting unfunded mandates.

gavel

An otherwise productive session

While the fate of HB 16-1309 will not be known until June 10, at the latest, all but one other bill supported or opposed by CML have been acted upon. The goal is to defeat 100% of oppose bills and pass as many support bills as possible. Depending on the outcome of this week, between 92-100% of the bills CML opposes will have been defeated and nearly 70% of the bills CML supports will be enacted.

Broad(band) Disappointment

Promises made

In the speeches made by legislative leadership in the first days of the session, as well as the State of the State Address given by Gov. John Hickenlooper, there was unbridled support and enthusiasm for expansion of broadband service in rural areas of the state. Yet, given all the hoopla and all the bipartisan support for doing something, the General Assembly will adjourn in 2016 without passage of meaningful legislation to address the significant shortfalls in broadband availability and speeds throughout Colorado.

fiber

There is no more direct evidence of the reality of broadband gaps in rural Colorado than the overwhelming approval by voters 45 municipalities and 21 counties that voted to exempt themselves from statutory prohibitions on provision of broadband services. Each vote is a referendum on the lack of availability and quality of broadband service. Citizens have expressed, in no uncertain terms, that the private sector is unwilling or unable to provide broadband infrastructure and service that allows schools and businesses to compete in the global economy. All of these communities – and all of the people within them – have a link to Colorado’s economy, educational system, and health care system.  Each one of them has the right to be as connected to the world as their counterparts in the larger cities along the Front Range.

The only answer from the General Assembly to this crisis is SB 16-067. The legislation does nothing to tackle substandard broadband service, but it does suggest that the private sector companies failing to provide better service might consider it if rural counties and municipalities give them a tax break on their business personal property. This – and apparently nothing else – is the barrier to private sector deployment of infrastructure and service.

We don’t agree.

Besides violating constitutional requirements for uniform taxation on all real and personal property, the bill does not do anything to improve service. The bill does not even require the company that would get the tax break to put new or improved infrastructure in the jurisdiction(s) asked to give the tax break. The legislation represents another missed opportunity.

Beyond the 2016 legislative session

Local governments working directly with interested citizens and the private sector will be the most promising avenue for providing fast, available broadband to all corners of Colorado. The General Assembly, by comparison, continues to be a vessel of disappointing rhetoric.

Municipalities and counties will continue to tackle this issue collaboratively and on the local level, along with a strong partner in the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). DOLA has been a critical element in local governments’ development of plans to build broadband infrastructure. Local governments largely plan to make the investment in infrastructure the private sector does not want to make, and then open it to private sector to offer high speed broadband to schools, businesses, and private citizens. The public/private partnerships (P3’s) are often the best model for public investment that benefits the private sector and those that subscribe to their services.

But meaningful assistance via the General Assembly?  Maybe in 2017.

A Better Alternative to Workers’ Comp?

Firefighter cancer and heart attacks in the spotlight

2007-2013: Unfunded mandates

Back in 2007, the General Assembly passed and Gov. Bill Ritter signed legislation strongly opposed by the Colorado Municipal League (CML) that reversed the standard for determination of workers’ compensation (WC) benefits for firefighters with certain cancers. Known as “presumptive eligibility,” the law reversed the standard WC practice of requiring the employee to demonstrate that an illness or injury occurred on the job to a presumption that it did and an accompanying requirement for the employer to prove that it didn’t. At the time, proponents claimed overwhelming evidence of the connection of employment in the fire service and the incidence of certain types of cancer. Ironically, truly overwhelming evidence should actually negate the need for a presumption. Proponents also essentially said the CML was full of beans with our assertion that the costs of WC insurance (or direct costs to self-insured employers) would rise dramatically. Despite bipartisan opposition, the bill carried the day.

It is important to note that there is a right to a process to determine compensability of workplace illnesses and injuries, employees are generally much better served by their employer-sponsored health care coverage and death and disability (D&D) coverage provided by the Fire & Police Pension Association (FPPA). Navigating the WC system is often lengthy and arduous, even for “easy” claims.

Fast forward to 2013. Firefighters and their representatives often stated that the law was inadequate, mostly because they mistakenly believed that “presumptive eligibility” meant “automatic eligibility” and claims would be immediately approved and paid. Just as CML told legislators in 2007, the cost of insuring for WC coverage increased dramatically for municipalities and fire districts, eating into budgets for personnel and equipment. In spite of the reality CML told legislators in 2007 would occur, firefighters began to discuss presumptive eligibility for hearts attacks and coronary events.

That push was met with resistance from fire chiefs, particularly from fire districts that had seen their budgets for the provision of their sole service of fire prevention and control impacted heavily by the cost of cancer presumptive eligibility. Knowing the cost impacts would be replicated for heart attacks, the fire district chiefs, Special District Association, and the firefighters pivoted toward a requirement for employers to provide heart attack insurance that would cover firefighters for events, regardless of whether or not they applied for WC benefits, by paying out a level benefit depending on the type and severity of the event.

That requirement was introduced in 2014 as SB 14-172, which the Colorado Municipal League opposed as an unfunded mandate prohibited by state statute. In spite of the good intention of the proponents, a bedrock policy of CML is the opposition to the central government of Colorado requiring municipalities to provide a service without funding the mandate. And state law prohibits unfunded mandates (see 29-1-304.5 C.R.S.) and says that without funding a new requirement, local governments may treat it as optional.

The proponents initially argued a mandated requirement was a reasonable exception because they stated 100% participation in a multi-employer pool was the only way the benefit would work. In the end, The League prevailed and  language in SB 14-172 reaffirms the intent of the statute in the face of a new mandate.  The mandate for a new service was (and still is) accompanied with a continuous appropriation from the state for the costs of providing the mandate and the statute states explicitly that: “If, at any time, the funding provided for the benefit required by this section is insufficient to cover the cost of the benefit, then the requirements of this section to maintain the benefit shall become optional pursuant to section 29-1-304.5.”

A funded mandate and a new way to view the world

A trust was created by the end of 2014 and began operating in 2015. Because the mandate was funded and the bill did not require participation in the trust, many self-insured employers self-insured themselves for this required benefit, the cost of which continues to be reimbursed by the State of Colorado. With less than 100% participation, the pool started strongly and continues to thrive, thus proving that 100% participation is not an absolute prerequisite.

Before the ink was dry on the paperwork creating the trust, proponents began discussing creating a similar trust for cancer.  Initially, they started down the same road as they did for SB 172.  The League staff said there would be no more mandates because heart attack insurance experience already showed us that a pool could survive without 100% participation, and there is no excess state revenue to fund a mandate. More importantly, CML argued that if the goal is to lower the utilization and cost of WC, then proponents should want municipalities and fire districts to voluntarily choose to affiliate with a trust, as opposed to trying to make them do it.

This is even more true as employers and taxpayers are still trying to digest the bitter pill associated with the dramatic premiums cost increases associated with presumptive eligibility. Maybe – the League argued – the proponents might cut employers a break if they voluntarily provided cancer coverage similar to the heart attack benefit.

It is hard to pin down precisely when the “a-ha!” moment occurred, but it did. Proponents, fire chiefs, municipalities, and special districts – along with the various experts from each – are now discussing details in a cooperative manner. Cancer is much more complex than heart attack events, which means this program will be trickier to set up in a way to guarantee there is no failure of any trust created to provide the benefits.

The significance of risk managers, pool administrators, fire chiefs, firefighters, CML, SDA and others meeting and discussing a voluntary program that could lower the costs and utilization of WC is clear to all that are participating. While the League still argues that a giant first step in addressing immediate relief for cost and budgeting challenges would be support for repealing the requirement for presumptive eligibility, that is not on the table. However, CML is encouraged that the proponents have talked about incentives for providing the coverage such as scaling back some of the requirements of presumptive eligibility.

Looking ahead

With only 36 days in the 2016 legislative session, there is not time to craft a program that would pass muster. However, people are still meeting, and there is a commitment by all to try to get to “yes” on enabling legislation and implementation in 2017. If successful, the effort will prove that conflict in the capitol that has occurred over the last 10 years – trying to insert the state into what should be handled cooperatively at the local level – is unnecessary.

More importantly, this effort may also be a model for other states that have gone even farther down the road of imposing crushing mandates on employers (and taxpayers) for presumptive eligibility and similar mandates. With little to show for this top down approach, it just might be that Colorado can lead the way with a collaborative approach that reduces costs and more expeditiously addresses health issues of first responders.