Hickenlooper: No special session for road money

He wanted lawmakers to ask voters to approve more money for roads.

DENVER—Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) announced Friday afternoon he will not be calling a special session of Colorado’s legislature after letting a threat to do so loom for more than a week.

In fact, Hickenlooper first said that he intended to make this decision over last weekend, but quickly walked that back to allow himself more time.

"I continue to have real concerns about how we are going to finance infrastructure, healthcare," Hickenlooper said. 

Hickenlooper floated the idea of a special session to provide more funding for highway construction, fund the state energy office, and pass bills aimed at fostering more transparency in healthcare—and did so in his office the day after the regular session ended.

State Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Republican, made it clear that he did not see any feasible way to pass a highway funding package if it came with any sort of tax increase to put before the voters.

Grantham told 9NEWS in a Friday interview for Balance of Power that he still agrees with the governor’s desire to ask voters to weigh in on more taxes for roads, but also that he’s pleased there would be no special session.

“I appreciate the fact that he’s chosen to let us deliberate on these things and let’s work on these things, and let’s come back in January and try to fix them,” Grantham said.

As of Friday, Grantham said he still hadn’t heard from Hickenlooper about any of the issues he wanted to work on in a special session. The governor would have needed to strike a deal with Senate Republicans to pass any legislation at all since the parties split control of the legislature.

Sitting alongside Grantham, Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran said she was pleased with how much the legislature did in the regular session, but added “we still have a lot of work to do.”

Duran pointed out that she and Grantham had agreed on a bill that would have asked voters whether they wanted a sales tax increase to fund substantially more road work than lawmakers ended up passing.

“Unfortunately, a very small group of senate Republicans decided to vote against that bill,” Duran said. “We should do as much as we possibly can before 2018 to figure out how we can bring people together to address some of these long-term issues.”

The fact that they are long-term issues bolsters the GOP case against a special session to address road funding, though Hickenlooper has argued that the issue could become an hindrance to Colorado’s economic growth if the state doesn’t do more soon.

“Perhaps the transportation is a long-shot,” Hickenlooper said last week on Balance of Power. “But I can’t believe that all the Republicans are going to look at the traffic and the rate of growth in this community and they’re going to deny the voters a chance to vote. No one’s trying to push this down anybody’s throat we’re just saying put it on the ballot and let people vote.”

Grantham predicted some sort of ballot measure will be offered “from outside groups” in 2017 through a signature petition, and he defended his support of the failed measure to ask voters for more tax money despite the fact that it died in the chamber he leads.

“There’s not a political avenue to do it right now,” Grantham said. “I would have loved to have seen [voters] have the chance to at least say yes or no.”

Seven proposed ballot questions dealing with transportation funding are already in the hands of the state title board, which is in charge of approving initiative petitions for the ballot.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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