Legislators Preview 2019 Session
Infrastructure, education and health care are top of mind looking at the year ahead
As legislators of the Colorado General Assembly prepare for the 2019 session, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kelly Brough spoke to 450 business leaders and elected officials at the Business Legislative Preview, endorsing a strong focus on infrastructure, education and health care.
"These three pillars are the fundamental responsibility of government, and in Colorado all three of our pillars face dire challenges," Brough said Thursday, Jan. 3. "As we look at this session, before we consider expanding the mission or the work of state government, we ask that we focus on shoring up our pillars – the critical issues that we face in the state."
Democrats focused on increasing funding for education, while also ensuring students receive necessary preparation.
"We need to ensure we're delivering and we have some accountability," says Business Affairs and Labor Committee Chair Angela Williams.
On the other side of the aisle, Republicans looked toward reform and local opportunities to fund schools.
"A one-size-fits-all system fits for now one," says House Minority Leader Patrick Neville.
Speaker of the House KC Becker of Boulder emphasized the importance of higher education and its impact on building a homegrown workforce.
"We also need to be keeping our talent in state with really strong higher education institutions," Becker said.
"We are building one of the best economies in our country – a knowledge-based economy," Brough said, noting the challenges of educational funding from kindergarten to higher-ed. She said about 74 percent of jobs in the state will require some post-secondary education by next year. "We're nowhere (near) preparing our kids for these opportunities. It is a crisis."
From cost of care to improved transparency, health care will be a focus of both parties in 2019.
"I should be able to go to that medical center and go to this one and say, 'What does this procedure cost?'" said Assistant Senate Minority Leader John Cooke. "Then I can make an informed decision as a consumer where I want to go."
Over the past 18 months, the Chamber has collected member companies from across the health-care system to work together to find solutions, focusing on employer-funded health-care options, which cover about half of the state population.
"Everyone needs to be part of the solution," Becker said.
From water and energy to broadband and transportation, legislators were asked many questions, specifically about transportation funding and how to address a $7.1 billion shortfall in the wake of two measures that failed to pass on the ballot.
Leaders of both parties agreed transportation continues to be a challenge: Democrats urged stakeholders to return to the discussion table to uncover a solution that includes a new revenue stream.
"The transportation issue has not gone away and will not go away," Williams said. "We cannot bond without a revenue stream."
Republicans emphasized increasing funding to transportation and revisiting efforts that would not lead to a new tax.
"We have to look for other ways," Neville said.
Brough warned: "We can't just solve it for the metro area; we must solve it for our state," in her opening comments,
"Collaboration is going to be critically important during this legislative session," William said.
Cooke added that even with a split legislature over the past four years, nearly two-thirds of bills passed, highlighting bipartisan efforts. But, he added, "we're going to hold the majority accountable."
Sara Crocker is the communications manager for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.