By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – The most consequential and controversial bill of the 2017 legislative session is now law.
Gov. John Hickenlooper traveled to the small town of Fowler in Otero County for the bill signing ceremony.
Rural Colorado stands to benefit most from the new law. It not only earmarks money for rural roads and schools but saves more than a dozen rural hospitals in danger of closing, including Lincoln Community Hospital in Hugo. It’s the only hospital for a 160-mile stretch on the Eastern Plains.
Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, was one of the lead sponsors of the bill.
“Imagine if you’re in that community and your father has chest pains or your child is hurt in an accident when seconds make a difference, let alone minutes, and heaven forbid hours.” Sonnenberg said.
Sonnenberg teamed up with Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, to usher the bill through the Senate.
In addition to $530 million in Medicaid reimbursement for hospitals, the measure also includes $30 million for schools, and nearly $2 billion for roads over the next 20 years.
But Amy Ford, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Transportation, says over that same 20 years the state has $20 billion in transportation needs.
“It’s sort of like if you have a $200,000 house you want to buy, you put together about a $20,000 down payment to buying the house, and of that $20,000 down payment part of this bill requires that $10,000 of it comes from CDOT money we already have dedicated to things like maintenance and stuff so we’ll be shifting it to adding new projects,” Ford said.
Just to pay for what’s in the bill, lawmakers agreed to raise the tax on recreational marijuana to 15 percent, sell some state buildings, require every state agency to cut its budget by 2 percent, and increase Medicaid copays — all while lowering the state’s spending cap.