Polis signs executive order on health care office

Gov. Jared Polis signs an executive order creating the Office of Saving People Money on Health Care on Jan. 23, to be run by Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, at left.

Gov. Jared Polis wants his lieutenant governor to head up his new Office of Saving People Money on Healthcare.

Senate Republicans said Tuesday they are fine with the extra duties, but not with paying Dianne Primavera an extra salary to do them.

Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, likened the double pay to the state paying him to go pick up his own lunch or make his own copies.

"We seem to have fallen in this habit in Colorado of saying, 'The lieutenant governor doesn't seem to have enough to do, so we ought to assign the lieutenant governor some other things to do." he said. "But then we say because we're going to assign the lieutenant governor a real job, we need to appropriate more money to pay the lieutenant governor more than that position already receives."

Gardner added, "If that's another job, then she's not doing the job she was elected to do."

As the state's second-in-command, Primavera is paid a salary of $93,360. To head up Polis' new office on healthcare, the executive branch is asking legislators to approve an additional $74,537 in salary.

The last two Democratic lieutenant governors have had side jobs in the state government for extra pay, too.

Joe Garcia also was executive director of the Department of Higher Education, earning a combined state salary of $158,000 a year until he stepped down in 2016 to become president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education in Boulder.

His successor as lieutenant governor, Donna Lynne, was paid $150,000 to be the state's chief operating officer.

If the salary for the second job is approved, Primavera would earn $168,097 a year.

Polis, a tech millionaire, has a state salary of $123,193 a year.

Statewide elected officials received a raise this year, set by legislators in 2017. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper earned $90,000 and his two lieutenant governors earned a $68,500, not counting their second jobs.

"It's bad public policy, bad policy for public officials," Gardner said of the two-paychecks arrangement.

But Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, one of the sponsors of House Bill 1127, saw it much differently.

"This is effective, efficient public policy," she said.

Fields said health care costs are the top issue for the state and nation.

"Don't get confused by eight hours a day," she said. "This has nothing to do with eight hours. This is about running the state of Colorado and making sure we're helping people save money as it relates to health care."

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