Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham struck an optimistic, bipartisan chord as he kicked off the 2018 legislative session Wednesday, announcing that his Republican caucus would immediately introduce a significant bill to fund transportation.
“Our willingness to engage one another has diminished,” said Grantham, a Cañon City Republican who is term-limited, despite anxiety in the Capitol’s halls over how much can get done in an election year with a split legislature. “Today is a day of deciding for our state: Shall we fall to (the) partisanship and constant suspension that is Washington D.C. politics? … Let us work together to solve the issues that matter most to Coloradans.”
The transportation funding bill would commit roughly $300 million from the state’s forecasted revenue growth (some of which is a consequence of the recently passed GOP federal-tax overhaul) to roads and put a measure before voters in November asking them to issue bonds of up to $3.5 billion.
House Democrats, though, have stopped short of committing to a dollar amount, insisting that transportation must be balanced with other pressing needs, such as education.
That means despite the hopeful tone of Grantham’s speech, the difference of opinion on road funding alone is likely to set up early friction between the GOP and Democrats.
Grantham also urged fixes to the state’s embattled Public Employees’ Retirement Association (another area of partisan disagreement) and for solutions to the state’s opioid crisis.
He said that his fellow Republican senators would be working on securing broadband access for rural Colorado and refocus the mission of the hot-button Colorado Energy Office to include traditional forms of energy, like coal and natural gas, as well as renewables. GOP senators introduced bills on both Wednesday.
“We can’t leave behind what got us here,” said Assistant Majority Leader Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, who is sponsoring the energy office legislation, which would also pare its funding from $3.1 million to $2.1 million.
The energy office legislation would also require Senate confirmation of any gubernatorial pick to lead the agency. A spokeswoman for the office said it’s too early for them to take position.
Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, in her address to the Senate, also urged lawmakers to “look past traditional partisan labels.” She celebrated the situations in which Republicans and Democrats were able to work together last year on significant measures.
She called on legislators to “work together to make health care available for all.”
“This period of collaboration and unity shows us a better way forward,” she said.