The bipartisan battle to secure $5 million to fund a Colorado program that offers teens long-acting reversible birth control hit another snag at the Capitol on Tuesday.
The six members of the Joint Budget Committee met to hash out an agreement on the state’s $26 billion budget after both chambers heard and made changes to their initial drafts last week. The budget makers agreed to some changes like funding road and bridge repair for the first time in six years. But the bipartisan committee deadlocked 3-3 over spending $5 million on long-acting reversible birth control. A 4-3 majority is required to pass something on the JBC.
“We knew all along this was going to be a difficult issue,” said Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, who voted for the contraception funding. “It just divides beliefs in a philosophical kind of way. We’re still hopeful that the bill moving through the process can accomplish the same goal.”
HB 1194, which has bipartisan sponsors in Reps. K C Becker, D-Boulder, and Don Coram, R-Montrose, would do more or less the same thing as the budget line item.
“Either way is an opportunity to save money in the budget and to protect women’s careers, lives and futures,” said Hamner.
Both Hamner and the bill sponsors have pointed out that over a three year period when the contraception program was privately funded teen pregnancy dipped by 40 percent. The state saved $5.85 Medicaid dollars for every dollar invested in free LARC.
The state currently spends nearly $9 billion a year on public healthcare services like Medicaid and state-level health coverage for children in poverty.
Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, was the only Republican on the JBC who voted to include the $5 million for LARC in the initial budget. However, by the time the issue had run through both chambers and it came time to vote again, he’d changed his mind.
“We were bypassing the will of the assembly,” he said. “We have a bill that’s in process, so I thought the line item was inappropriate.”
The bill, which faces stiff opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, will first come up for a vote in the House next week. Rankin says he plans to vote for it.
“I still support the bill,” he said. “I think it’s effective… it helps people and it will supposedly save dollars. I mean these things always have two purposes. It can’t be just about money.”
Photo by Mara.