First, Colorado got steamrolled by the COVID-19 pandemic, then the COVID-19 recession. But now, as we all try to get back on our feet, we’re about to get steamrolled again — this time politically, by arrogant politicians who control all the levers of power right now at the state Capitol.
On issue after issue, the Democrats who control the House, Senate and the governor’s office are flattening anything — and anyone — who gets in their way. There are too many examples for just one column, but here are a few to ponder.
Transportation: In Colorado, tax increases and even fees above a certain level require voter approval. But politicians at the state Capitol are charging ahead anyway with a bill, SB 21-260, to effectively increase Colorado’s gasoline tax by 8 cents a gallon — or 36% — over the next six years.
The bill is crammed full of other fees that lawmakers don’t want you to vote on, because they know you’d never approve: Fees on delivering packages or food to your door, fees for riding in an Uber, fees for car-sharing services.
But get this: To take some of the stink off, supporters have also proposed a temporary cut in fees and charges for new cars starting in 2022 — in other words, when lawmakers and Gov. Jared Polis are running for re-election. Within a few years, those fees and charges will go up again. How dumb do they think voters are exactly?
Property taxes: Last year, voters approved Amendment B to freeze statewide property tax rates. Well now, some lawmakers think they’ve found a loophole that lets them unilaterally increase property taxes at the local level.
Their bill, HB 21-1164, would increase the property taxes you pay by about $288 million per year when fully implemented. No local vote. No statewide vote. Just a direct order from people who know better at the state Capitol.
Health care: The doctors, nurses and hospital staff who brought us through the COVID pandemic are now being targeted for punishment by Gov. Polis and legislative supporters of the so-called public option bill, HB 21-1232. The bill takes the unprecedented step of forcing health care providers to work for the state-controlled health plan at rock-bottom rates. Not even Medicare or Medicaid does that.
Health care providers and hospitals who disobey, because they can’t take the financial hit, face fines and may even have their licenses revoked. The bill is so bad that Democrats have gone public with their concerns, expressing “serious concerns” and “deep anxieties” during a key committee hearing.
“It’s sending the wrong message at the wrong time for the people that I believe are heroes,” Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, told the hearing. “If you suspend or impose conditions on a hospital’s license, they can’t operate.” Democrats have four members on the Senate health committee, and three of them — including Sen. Fields — said they were concerned about its impact on the health care system.
But the public option bill is such a huge priority for Polis and left-wing special-interest groups that the four Democrats voted yes anyway. Just like doctors, nurses and hospitals, if they get in the governor’s way, they’ll get crushed.
COVID testing: If there’s a common theme to all these examples, it’s an obsessive need for control. Don’t try to persuade voters to raise gas taxes and property taxes, just ram the tax increases through. Don’t negotiate with doctors and nurses, just force them to work for you. My way, or no way at all.
Well, this obsession with control may also have been a factor in the collapse of a $53 million state plan to provide rapid at-home COVID-19 tests to front-line workers and teachers. Close to 1.9 million tests are sitting in a warehouse somewhere, about to expire, because the Polis administration allegedly refused to take pointers from manufacturers about how to get them into the hands of real people on the front lines.
The manufacturers say their recommendations — such as sending tests in bulk to local governments and school districts — were rebuffed. Instead, state officials insisted on their own “extremely narrow distribution model” that shipped the tests one at a time and only to people who had completed a days-long registration process. The whole mess is now in the hands of the lawyers, with the Polis administration denying it ever ordered the unused tests to begin with.
I get it. Politics attracts people with A-type personalities and elections have consequences. But once they are elected, our representatives don’t get a license to pass any kind of law they want, any way they want.
They are supposed to keep listening, but right now, they just keep driving that steamroller faster and faster, until nobody’s left in their way.
Heidi Ganahl is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, author and at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, to which she was elected as a Republican in 2016.