DENVER — Colorado’s Democratic leaders laid out their list of priorities for this upcoming legislative session in a press conference on the steps of the state capitol Monday.
Gov. Jared Polis was joined by the leaders of the House and Senate to talk about bills they would like to pass this session.
The priority list ranges from reducing healthcare costs to spending more on education.
The governor began the press conference by talking about how costs are going up, hurting families so he want to find ways to save people money.
“We're committed all saving Coloradans money and reducing costs, whether it's cutting fees, reducing healthcare costs, saving money on childcare or education, focusing on protecting our way of life and making our state more affordable for everyone,” Polis said. “We're open to additional fee relief including reducing vehicle registration fees, gas and driver's license fee reductions, making it free to start a business in Colorado.”
Republicans have openly criticized the calls to reduce fees, accusing the Democrats of backtracking on some of their work in previous sessions like SB21-260.
The massive transportation bill sets to implement new fees on everything from gas to retail delivery to ride shares starting this summer.
Polis said during the press conference that now is not the time for families to face more costs so he would like to show people relief at the pump by delaying some fees.
“It is no longer an ability for people to ignore that the cost of living in Colorado, and the pressure put on families,” said Republican Rep. Hugh McKean, the House Minority Leader. “When we take a look at what can we do to make Colorado more affordable, that's not just delaying fees and taxes, that's getting government out of the way.”
Public safety was also included in the list of democratic legislative priorities. Several Colorado cities are reporting a noticeable increase in their crime rates over the past year.
“Every Colorado deserves to live in a community that is safe, a safe place to live, work and raise a family. This session we are investing $1 billion in some of the deeply rooted causes to address the crime challenges,” said Democrat Sen. Leroy Garcia, President of the Senate.
Part of the legislation will include addressing affordable housing, creating more access to behavioral health services, and investing in forensic and investigative resources.
Democratic member of the House, Alec Garnett, announced plans to direct nearly $400 million of federal funds into strategies that help reduce the cost of housing like creating a revolving loan fund to finance affordable housing projects and look into financing the creation of thousands of prefabricated homes.
Rep. Daneya Esgar (D), meanwhile, spoke at length about the need to invest more in schools after a difficult couple of years.
“This session, we're going to make the largest investment in K-12 education in the state's history to prepare our workforce and students for success and to ensure every single student has the resources in their classrooms to succeed,” Esgar said.
Along with providing additional resources to schools, Esgar said they are looking to prepay funds for future years and cut down on the debt owed to school districts.
Wildfire relief, air quality control, and health care were also highlighted as priorities during the upcoming session.
For their part, Republicans criticized the priority list for being too similar to one they revealed over the summer.
“They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Well, we saw a lot of imitation here today,” McKean said. “Those are our big three, make Colorado more affordable, get tough on crime, and make sure that parents have the educational choices for their kids.”
While several of the priorities line up, McKean stresses that how the two sides want to get things done is where the real differences lie.
The legislative session begins on Wednesday.