EDITORIAL: Colorado families need big relief, not just big election year talk from Democrats and Republicans

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Colorado State represenatives stand for a morning prayer as the 2022 legislative session opened Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, in the State Capitol in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

 

Like the repellent combination of bad weather and a bad cold, Colorado residents should expect the worst as the Colorado Legislature revs up to 
  make things happen in an election year.

In Colorado, just like in Congress, even-year lawmakers often lean into a bi-partisan role of posturing and populism.

This year is no exception.

Democrats are in firm control of the state, holding comfortable margins in the state House and Senate, as well as in the governor’s office. In the thick of a deadly and ruinous pandemic, Democrats rolling out their 2022 agenda have made it clear they’ve got their eye on the election year speed bump: the economy, or part of it.

“You will see a real focus this session on saving people money,” Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said at a state Capitol press conference Jan. 10.

There is no doubt that the vast majority of middle class and financially struggling Coloradans would welcome serious and substantive income increases or reduction in the growing list of things that decimate their paychecks.

Democrats are talking about reducing car registration fees, business license fees and maybe the cost of filing paperwork to start a new business.

No one would object to reductions in those relatively very minor nicks at the bottom line, but what they’re suggesting so far is all show and no go.

Skyrocketing rents, costly and increasingly worthless health insurance, mushrooming grocery costs, snowballing fuel and daycare tabs are pushing even wealthier Colorado resident budgets into the red.

Reduced fees and filings are just talking the election-year talk, at a time when residents need lawmakers to enact real and substantive change.

The metro area is choking in traffic and ozone pollution, made even more painful by expensive gasoline contributing to the endangerment of the planet.

Real help would come from state lawmakers investing serious money into the metro area’s defective mass transit system. Real relief on all fronts could be gleaned if the entire system was redesigned to move people around the metroplex in a way they need to get to work, to school and to where they want to be to enjoy their lives. Real help would come from making that service free or so close to free so that it draws struggling residents on board. It could save metroplex families hundreds of dollars each month in fuel and insurance costs, reduce carbon emissions and relieve traffic congestion, traffic deaths and injuries and help pull back the region’s poisonous ozone cloud.

Real help for those who need it most could come from using much of the state’s astonishing revenue windfall by drastically, and temporarily, pulling back state income taxes imposed on those who bring in around $150,000 per household or less.

Real help for families being fiscally penalized each month for paying for private health insurance would be to subsidize those payments, like the state is doing for policies bought on the statewide insurance exchange and Medicaid recipients. Again, legislators could limit the subsidy to those with family incomes around $150,000 or less.

Bypassing the subsidy, lawmakers could instead create meaningful regulations of the insurance, hospital and provider industries to end the growling list of hugely expensive tests and treatments not covered by policies with huge deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. Most often, the premiums alone are debilitating. But having to essentially pay for medical and drug costs far beyond the monthly premium costs creates choices of debt, ill-health or doing without for other critical needs.

Democrats aren’t the only ones trying to showboat their way to election victory this year. Republicans, unable to offer changes improving your bottom line, are focusing on another problem keeping Colorado residents up at night: crime and violence.

There’s no arguing that a sharp increase in burglaries, thefts, vandalism, and far worse, gun violence, must be addressed. But what Republicans are offering will be little to no help.

Despite the claims of many Republican legislators and pundits, the vast majority of crimes affecting Coloradans are symptoms of complicated problems. Without addressing the underlying issues, crimes are just transplanted or shifted and most often go unabated.

Colorado has seen generations of “tough on crime” campaigns, which are long on fear and blame and short on effective solutions. Expanding police forces can improve response time to crime victims once they become victims, but even moderately larger police teams do not prevent crimes from occurring. Warehousing adolescent hoodlums serves only as a trade school for a lifetime of addiction and crime. 

Drug addiction, poverty, boredom, apathy and poor education drive community crime rates. Only addressing those things will move the needle in the opposite direction.

Colorado history is unequivocal in showing that getting “tough on crime” is mostly just tough on taxpayers. The state’s criminal justice system has become an expensive boondoggle that begs redesign.

On all of these issues, Democrats and Republicans should seek common ground focusing on real change and results, not the fall elections. Struggling Colorado families need big help this year, not big talk.

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Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
6 days ago

Older adults are one of the groups that really need financial assistance and have been totally left out so far. They are not in the workforce in as large numbers as other generations and did not significantly benefit from the expanded unemployment benefits. Large percentage on fixed income, and are taxed on their social security. They are living much longer but experience age discrimination in all aspects of their lives, including trying to work longer.Social security got a 5.9% increase this year but our Medicare A & B premiums (all must pay this if on Medicare) increased by almost 20%, an unprecedented increase, leaving us at a net loss. Review of how to assist older adults should be part of DEM & GOP platforms and research. Some Dems have proposed a $200/mo SS increase (small but a start). Most of the GOP wants to cut Medicare and Social Security, which would be devastating for our older adult population.

Doug King
Doug King
2 days ago

First of all, the GOP could care less and will decimate the Social Security system if given half a chance. They’ll also cut Medicare in favor of private insurance. They’ve said so and shown it in their bills and rhetoric already.
There certainly needs to be means testing for SS. Millionaires shouldn’t be receiving it no matter what they paid in….nor Medicare for that matter. If they have their Golden Parachutes why should Medicare be the primary health provider? Let’s go with that to start.

Doug King
Doug King
2 days ago

Skyrocketing rents(can’t change capitalism can you?), costly and increasingly worthless health insurance(until you get insurance companies out of healthcare this will never change::ONE PAYOR SYSTEM modeled after the Canadian system perhaps), mushrooming grocery costs(supply and demand-increase the supply and the costs will lower, but that means immediately addressing the supply issues which haven’t been addressed yet), snowballing fuel (afraid this is also supply and demand but you can add political as well) and daycare tabs (I’m still wondering who is supposed to pay for someone’s children besides the parents. Education is different…day care is not. Maybe the monthly stipend of oh, $2000 for a parent to stay home with the children is not a bad idea? But not based on the number of children! And the parent can’t use that to pay day care and then go to work as well! right?)
Problem really can be taken care of with dollars. Problem is there isn’t enough dollars for the demand and the political consequences and current hatred for the poor and down that some have…..
And the Dems/Repubs definitely “have a failure to communicate”