Hullinghorst’s pay-as-you-go bill hits the House in search of one GOP vote

State Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Niwot, who’s sponsoring pay-as-you-go legislation (pdf) she feels will bring better transparency and accountability to the Colorado General Assembly, also said she’ll join other Democrats in offering similar amendments to bills that would reverse cuts to tax exemptions for many industries put in place last year.

Hullinghorst said she’s worried that moves to repeal last year’s Democratic budget-reform measures would fail to provide revenue sources for business-tax exemptions and other bills. She said that was at least part of the reason she was proposing her pay-as-you-go bill.

Dickey Lee Hullinghorst

“We are scrambling just to balance the budget on the revenues we are already bringing in, so any time you add to that you just add to the problem,” Hullinghorst said. “This [bill] codifies a process that has been followed, generally speaking, that you don’t pass anything out of appropriations unless you can find a funding source for it. I am not certain that this will be practiced this year, because there is a lot of talk about repealing the budget-balancing measures that the Democrats passed last year.”

Last year, Democrats suspended or ended $140 million in tax breaks and exemptions to Colorado businesses, including a tax break for agricultural products — the famed bull-semen bill. That bill alone would cost the state $3.7 million a year if reenacted, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

While a Democratic member of the House Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources Committee moved to amend the bill by calling for a pay-as-you-go description of a funding source be attached, the motion was ruled out of order and no further debate was heard. The bill was then passed out of committee and has been redirected to the House Finance Committee.

“For any of those bills, at least if they come to me on committee prior to my bill being heard and passed, I will, and others will, be offering pay-as-you-go amendments. Those say that you can’t have appropriations without a funding source identified,” Hullinghorst said.

Hullinghorst said that it was difficult for her to imagine how someone like House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, “could responsibly vote in appropriations committee if [a bill] doesn’t have a funding source on it.”

Gerou responded to Hullinghorst, explaining that while she respected her as a legislator she should not try and predict the future.

“I look at every bill individually. Why would you need a committee if you don’t look at a bill individually on its merit.

“In the Republican Party we don’t constrain our members. They represent their district and they vote as we see fit. As far as her pay as you go bill goes, that is a direct reaction to how the Colorado House and Senate are very reflective of what is going on in Congress right now. Because in Congress the House is controlled by the Republicans and the Senate is controlled by the Dems which is the same thing that you have here. Ergo, Nancy Pelosi started the pay as you go there because it was a way to control Republicans and their decision making. So, this is just politics. I haven’t heard the bill, but I have no feeling of playing politics with the people’s budget.”

Gerou said she was not yet certain how she would vote on the pay-as-you-go bill.

House Speaker Frank McNulty told the Associated Press he had no interest in pay-as you go legislation. “A bad idea in Washington is a bad idea in Colorado,” McNulty said.

Hullinghorst said that Democrats on the House Finance Committee, where her bill will be heard Feb. 10, will be solidly behind the bill. However, Republicans have been non-committal.

“I have visited with both the leadership of the committee and the chair. They have made no commitments to me. I don’t know whether they are going to be inclined to pass it or not,” Hullinghorst said.

The bill will need to receive at least one vote from a Republican member to pass the finance committee and be heard on the House floor.

“As yet, I do not have that Republican vote,” Hullinghorst said.

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