By CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – Health care workers sang the national anthem in the Colorado House of Representatives as the legislature reconvened on Tuesday with a focus on a healthy community and healthy economy. Our unemployment rate is the fourth highest in the nation after Hawaii, Nevada and California as 8.4% of Coloradans don’t have jobs right now.

While there is tremendous need, there are limited state resources and lawmakers can’t raise taxes without voter approval.

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“As a state of Colorado, our revenue sources are weak. We don’t have enough funding to actually do what we need to do,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, who sits on the Joint Budget Committee.

(credit: CBS)

She says they are looking at other options to increase revenue ranging from fees on businesses to pay for road improvements to fines on businesses that can’t meet energy efficiency standards,

“I think we’re going to have a conversation about fines and fees across every single sector.”

Herod says lawmakers will also have conversations about eliminating business tax credits and exemptions.

“The belief is these are only for big corporations. They’re not. They’re actually helping those restaurants and manufacturers,” said Loren Furman with the Colorado Chamber of Commerce.

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She says businesses are already collapsing under the weight of COVID restrictions and new mandates like paid leave. They are also expected to see a 20% increase in business unemployment tax and lawmakers are demanding more access and affordability in health care from insurers, employers and providers.

“Really giving them two years to right this ship, and if they can’t state can step in,” Rep. Kyle Mullica said of a state run option.

Furman says it will hurt, not help, those in need.

“The last thing workers want to see and employers want see are more increases to health care premiums.”

Mullica dismisses that, saying businesses will see lower costs too.

“This idea that it’s not doable, I struggle to buy into that. We need to offer some type of relief.”

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Even as lawmakers look to bring in additional revenue, the budget outlook is good. Gov. Jared Polis is pushing for a billion dollar economic stimulus, but don’t expect any decisions on that until March when the new economic forecast comes out. The budget committee wants to see that first.

Shaun Boyd