Flanked by General Assembly leaders from his party, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday celebrated what he described as “one of the most productive and practical sessions” in recent memory.
In recapping the session, the governor focused on two main areas: transportation funding and saving Coloradans money on health care.
“On issue after issue, I think this legislature had heard you,” he said.
Polis said he was particularly proud of Senate Bill 260, the transportation funding package he said meant the state was “finally going to fix the damn roads.” Still, he acknowledged the $5.4 billion bill falls short of the Department of Transportation’s overall needs and called on Congress to work with the Biden administration to bring a federal infrastructure package across the finish line.
“Any plan that is even between the Republican proposal and Biden's proposal, anywhere in the middle there would absolutely meet Colorado's needs coupled with what our state legislature did,” Polis said.
He also praised the state package for setting Colorado up to receive more of those federal transport dollars should an agreement be reached in Congress.
“There’s some formulaic funds, but there are also some matching funds and Colorado would have been very poorly placed without this bill to attract matching funds to our state,” he said.
On health care, Polis placed special emphasis on the Colorado Option legislation as well as two bills aimed at bringing down the prices of prescription drugs. The first of those establishes a Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board while the second would expand a drug importation plan beyond Canada, should the feds ever allow it.
But Polis appears to have changed his tune regarding health insurance mandates.
A year ago, he warned the legislature not to send him any more coverage mandates for health insurance, citing concerns that it drives up the cost of health insurance premiums exactly at a time when his focus is on reducing the cost of health care. He also asked lawmakers to send him a bill that would allow for actuarial analyses of health insurance mandates.
That was then. This is now. Polis said he was disappointed that the actuarial analysis bill did not make it to his desk. Leadership of the Senate Finance Committee put a "poison pill" amendment on the bill, Senate Bill 85, that would require a lawmaker to get permission from both the Senate president and House Speaker before getting that analysis. Critics said it gave those leaders de facto veto power over those requests.
As to mandates, Polis is singing a different tune. He said he is "open" to the mandates headed to his desk, which he said addressed mere "rounding errors" and small costs to health insurers.
"I will look at each individually," he told reporters.