A Democratic move to bring pay-as-you-go legislation to the Colorado General Assembly died in the Republican controlled House Finance Committee Thursday, an outcome sponsor Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Niwot, said was no surprise. The bill, HB 1052, died on a 6-6 vote.
“Well, I expected it,” Hullinghorst told The Colorado Independent. However, she said she had only begun to fight for greater transparency in expenditures and public program cuts. “I will have amendments that will come up on each of the bills that have additional spending or have tax cuts or tax incentives to ensure that we have some transparency and accountability.”
Hullinghorst said her bill, as amended, would have led to greater transparency and fiscal responsibility by forcing legislators to find revenue sources for their bills before bringing them to appropriations. She said in doing so they would have to explain why they were cutting from one program to give to another.
The bill said that prior to the passage of the state budget long bill that neither chamber’s appropriations committee could pass legislation unless the bill specifically identified a revenue source.
“Where we have fallen down [in providing transparency] is when we are talked into, and sometimes for very good reasons, giving tax breaks to special interest groups.” Hullinghorst said to the committee. “I think that we need to make it clear to Colorado taxpayers how their hard earned dollars are being spent and how the services they count on are being impacted. That is the transparency part that I don’t think we do so well,” Hullinghorst said to the committee.
However, Republicans were not convinced. They said the bill could lead to upward pressure to spend and felt there was enough transparency and accountability already in the budgeting process.
“I see a bill that has a focus on more spending and how are we going to achieve and create accountability for more spending, saying how we are going to pay for a spending binge seems to indicate that we are going to have a spending binge,” said Rep. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield. Hullinghorst said she disagreed. “I am having a little difficulty getting where you think this is encouraging spending. We aren’t going to spend more than we take in… I think it is pretty clear we are discouraging spending.”
Rich Jones, director of policy and research at the Bell Policy Center, said he feels the process created by HB 1052 shows the trade offs that occur when providing tax incentives. “If we reduce revenues in one area, right now, we have to take money from the general fund,” he said, “it comes form K-12, higher ed, or somewhere else but it forces us to consider the trade off.”
“I am for an open and verifiable process,” Committee Chair Rep. Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, said. “There is a lot of things that can fix that solution. I do feel that when we are talking about transparency these bills are heard in two finance committees, two appropriations committees, heard on the floor of the House, heard on the floor of the Senate, they are already scrutinized by the governor’s office and the joint budget committee. So I feel like these bills are already seen throughout the process.”
Hullinghorst disagreed with DelGrosso, as the final vote was called against her.
“I am really disappointed this common-sense, fiscally responsible bill has been killed,” said Hullinghorst in a release. “This would have been a great opportunity for us as legislators to give Colorado taxpayers a guarantee that their money is being spent responsibly and wisely. It’s a shame Republicans aren’t willing to have an honest discussion about how we’re going to pay for new programs or tax credits and exemptions.”