BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
Villager publisher Bob Sweeney and I sat down with district 26 State Sen. Jeff Bridges at the Early Bird Café in the Landmark in Greenwood Village to talk about his goals and vision for the 2020 legislative session just begun.
Bridges explained that unlike Washington, D.C., the Colorado legislature is “not so partisan.” In fact, he told us, “96 percent of the bills passed in 2019 were approved on a bipartisan basis.” Since that means, technically, that the bills that were approved by the Democrat-controlled legislature had at least one Republican vote, we pressed Bridges for more information. He said, “Two-thirds of the bills that were approved were supported by at least half the Republicans in the legislature.” That, by any definition, is true bipartisanship.
The senator is highly focused on education. He believes that “Every kid who is born in the United States should have a chance to live the American Dream.” On failed Referendum CC of 2019, which would have provided more money for K-12 education by retaining tax refunds resulting from legal tax collections in excess of TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) limits, Bridges said, “It wasn’t specific enough. If people knew exactly how money was being spent and were certain that there was a way to guarantee that the money goes where it’s supposed to go, they might say yes to a proposal to retain TABOR tax refunds.”
On the question of TABOR as a continuing policy in Colorado, Bridges believes it is here to stay. “The ability to vote on tax increases is something Coloradans will never give up,” he stated unequivocally.
Turning back to education, Bridges is very interested in concurrent enrollment that allows high school students to earn college credits at virtually no cost. He said that presently, “Anyone in high school can take a class at any community college, including online.” He would like to see “every student who is capable of doing so graduate high school with a two-year college associate’s degree completed.”
Bridges believes something will pass this year’s state legislature on the subject of paid family leave, but there are multiple proposals that will need to be sorted out. He also thinks that action will be taken on prescription drug prices, noting that the 2019 legislature capped the price of insulin at $100/month.
The senator has been working with others to revise the all-important and highly complicated school finance formula, which was written in the 1980’s. He thinks a draft of a revised formula for school funding may not be ready for consideration until 2021.
Sweeney asked Bridges if he was surprised that the referendum to build a new Arapahoe County Jail to replace the current one, which is in terrible condition, failed. Bridges said, “Until the conversation about a referendum to increase taxes for a new jail began, I’d never heard anything about the current one being in poor condition.” Frequently, he said, Colorado voters have to be asked a question more than once before they say yes.
Bridges said “the market is driving the change to renewable energy” when we asked about what will happen to cities like Craig, Sweeney’s home town, whose economy is based on coal production. The senator said there are ways for the state to help with job retraining, pointing to the work being done in Pueblo by Excel in that area.
We asked the senator about the possibility of true sales tax simplification in Colorado, since the legislature can only make rules for statutory cities (there are 12) and towns in the state. Home rule cities (there are 61, including Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Pueblo, Arvada, Aurora, Centennial, Greenwood Village, Cherry Hills Village, Englewood, and Littleton) contain two-thirds of the state’s population. Answered Bridges, “We need to create a system for sales tax collection by the state that home rule cities will want to participate in.”
Jeff Bridges was first elected state representative for HD3 in Nov. 2016. He served for two years and had just been re-elected to the House when he was appointed to fill the remaining term of Sen. Daniel Kagan, who resigned and retired from state senate district 26 in Jan. 2019. Bridges is up for re-election in Nov. 2020.
2018 All Rights Reserved. Villager Publishing |