Gov. Hickenlooper hints he may call lawmakers back to work in special session

Colorado's governor isn't happy with the modest advancements lawmakers made this year on road funding, energy and health care

DENVER | Colorado’s governor isn’t happy with the modest advancements lawmakers made this year on road funding, energy and health care.

And Gov. John Hickenlooper is thinking about calling them back to Denver to take another crack.

The Legislature concluded work for the year late Wednesday. They made agreements to increase school funding, spend nearly $2 billion to improve roads and highways, and to give business owners a tax break.

But not everything went according to plan.

Colorado has another $7 billion in highway needs that aren’t paid for, even after the transportation deal that includes mortgaging state buildings. It’s a backlog the governor calls unacceptable.

Lawmakers also failed to agree on funding the Colorado Energy Office.

And Hickenlooper is criticizing lawmakers for not taking up more plans to lower health-care costs.

During a Thursday press conference, Hickenlooper said he and his staff would discuss the possibility over the weekend and have a decision by Monday.

“I told several people. … they shouldn’t make any vacation plans for May just to be safe,” Hickenlooper said.

Republican state leadership scoffed at the possibility of a special session.

“I appreciate the governor’s desire to get things done,” said Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham in a statement. “But we had an opportunity for him to have engaged on these issues during a 120-day session, and now it’s Day 121. Unless the governor can point to successes on any of these issues he’s guaranteed to have, he’ll just be wasting taxpayer dollars.”

While Republicans were skeptical of the idea, Aurora-area Democrats seemed to be on board with the idea.

“I got into this position to serve and if there’s something that needs to be one I’m ready to accept that challenge,” said Democratic Sen. Rhonda Fields. “When we’re in session, we hear a multitude of bills and issues we’re dealing with. If we were to have some concentrated time on transportation we might be able to gets something done. I do think it might help us find a solution.”

Sen. Daniel Kagan, a Democrat whose district includes the area around Cherry Creek Reservoir, said a special session might give the Legislature enough time to break through what he said was just a few votes that held up a compromise on transportation funding. A bipartisan bill, HB 1242, which would have put a 0.5-percent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects on the November ballot died in a Senate committee on a party-line vote.

“We certainly failed to take measures that would really resolve the transportation funding problem in Colorado. But we did take a smaller step and whether or not a special session would be successful in tackling the big issue, I’m for giving it a try,” Kagan said. “I think the likelihood of success would be really good. There was a pretty good consensus on the (failed) sales tax proposal for new revenue. It was only held up by one vote in a Senate committee.”

Staff writer Ramsey Scott contributed to this report.