HEIDI BASKFIELD: Colorado lawmakers showed true leadership this year


Communities thrive when their leaders come together to support the crucial entities that make them strong—things like education, healthcare and transportation, among others.

We place great trust in our elected officials to make decisions that strengthen and improve these key elements, and in turn, our communities. This legislative session, despite long hours, heated debates and numerous negotiations, we are incredibly pleased that our state leaders honored their commitment to community.

This year, a state budget crisis threatened key community institutions, especially in rural areas. And on the last day of the state legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly gave final approval to a bill that is the key to solving this crisis.

A bipartisan bill in both the Senate and the House with strong sponsorship from both rural and urban lawmakers, the legislation re-creates the state’s Hospital Provider Fee program in a separate fund, saving hospitals like Children’s Hospital Colorado from massive cuts, while honoring the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) by lowering the state revenue cap. The bill negates $528 million in planned cuts to Colorado hospitals and supports rural communities via investments in education and transportation, all without raising taxes.

If Senate Bill 267 had failed, the Hospital Provider Fee would have continued to disrupt the state General Fund and hospitals would have continued to be slashed to balance the budget, impacting hospitals across the state, causing some rural hospitals to close and patients to lose access to care.

That’s not to say it was easy. Both political parties made major compromises to ultimately reach an agreement, demonstrating their resolve to put constituents first. We recognize the bill isn’t perfect. At Children’s Colorado, there are parts of SB-267 that wouldn’t be our preference, but we knew it was the answer to greater issues, and we appreciate that legislators on both sides of the aisle also recognized the greater good within the bill.

The bill sponsors—Senators Jerry Sonnenberg and Lucia Guzman and Representatives KC Becker and Jon Becker—showed what leadership looks like, refusing to quit because they knew how high the stakes were for their constituents. We also want to thank the Adams and Arapahoe County legislators who did right by Colorado in supporting SB-267: Senators Kevin Priola, Jack Tate, Nancy Todd and Rhonda Fields, and Representatives Dafna Michaelson-Jenet, Dominique Jackson and Mike Weissman.

The collaboration it took to pass SB-267 should serve as a model of what can happen when leaders come together to support the communities they represent. As Colorado’s largest safety net healthcare provider for children, we thank these lawmakers for doing what’s right for kids and what’s right for Colorado.

Heidi Baskfield is executive director of advocacy for Children’s Hospital Colorado