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Hickenlooper: Polling shows people would reject move of hospital tax

Image: Colorado State Archives
Image: Colorado State Archives

*Exclusive* – Must credit Complete Colorado.

On January 6, Governor John Hickenlooper spoke to the well heeled and highly influential political organization ‘Colorado Forum.’ But the governor, his staff, and members of Colorado Forum barred three reporters who showed up from joining the meeting.

Complete Colorado obtained recordings of the remarks and the question and answer session which followed after filing a Colorado Open Records Act request with the governor’s office on the same day seeking audio recordings of the governor. The wide ranging discussion touched on the governor’s new water plan, the battle over the “hospital provider fee,” immigration, oil and gas initiatives, and even the impact driverless cars could someday have on the state.

5280 magazine recently described Colorado Forum as “an innocuous name for one of the most powerful political lobbies in this state.” The group’s website says they are focused on “long-term public concerns that needed thoughtful reflection, discussion and understanding in order to keep Colorado growing in a meaningful, healthy way.”

The group’s website also mentions that, “[t]he Forum served as a primary convener for the successful 2004 Referendum C initiative which gave Colorado state government a five-year reprieve from TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) spending limits.”

Because there were no reporters present and the talk was with a friendly audience, one might assume the remarks by the governor were more candid than usual.

Full, unedited copies of the two audio files obtained by Complete Colorado are embedded at the end of this story.

File photo - Todd Shepherd
File photo – Todd Shepherd


Late in the opening remarks, Hickenlooper observed that his efforts to move the so-called “hospital provider fee” from underneath TABOR caps would not be welcome if put to a full vote of the people.

“We know from our polling,” the governor said to the forum, “and I know that you guys have done a bunch of polling as well, if we put it on the ballot it would be a tough thing to pass right now. I mean…that’s, just, how negative the world is…” (CO Forum Remarks – 16:23).

Those comments closely mirror other remarks the governor has made as previously reported by the Denver Post. However, the remarks are increasingly noteworthy in this instance for the fact that the idea of failing at the ballot box isn’t just a gut feeling the governor has, it’s backed up with polling data.

Hickenlooper then went on to explain how he didn’t believe transportation bonds would provide enough revenue for all of the infrastructure improvements he and others would like and feel the state needs in the coming years. Issuing bonds has been the counter-proposal, mainly from Senate Republicans including Senate President Bill Cadman, as a revenue source for new transportation projects.

The governor exhorted his listeners to get involved.

“You all have a million points of contact with the legislature – particularly with the Republicans – to say, ‘Bonding’s not going to work.’” (CO Forum Remarks – 18:05)

Hickenlooper told the attendees the fee should have been properly classified when it was created.

“…[Y]ou know, if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, it is a duck; if it looks like a fee, functions like a fee, it probably is a fee. Back in 2009 when they, the legislature created this fee, they probably should have classified it as such, for a variety of reasons. We’ve talked to legislators, talked to Governor Ritter, they didn’t feel they could, could bear the battle that that would have caused back then.” (CO Forum Remarks – 16:00)


Hickenlooper echoed remarks he made previously that landed him in hot water with immigration activists.

In the campaign year of 2014, Hickenlooper told the Wall Street Journal, “What’s amazing to me is, a lot of young Latinos, the vast majority don’t care about a pathway to citizenship.”

During the remarks to Colorado Forum this January, Hickenlooper said,

I think, when I talk to the young kids – now, this, these are not politically active young kids, but the, just the undocumented workers who I run, get to meet all the time at Metro State or uh, when I’m out at a work project or someplace I always try to seek kids out – they don’t care about the pathway to citizenship. They want to come out of the shadows, be able to have a job, be able to get on an airplane and fly, they want to live a life. And be able to use their education at a level at which they’re, they’ve been trained. Uh, and they’re willing to gamble that in five years or ten years there’ll be a pathway to citizenship.

Right now, the last legislative deal which was, you know, ripped up and down one side, ripped up one side and down the other in the legis- in the US Congress, was, it was going to be a twelve year process to get, you know, even the chance to get, become a pathway to citizenship. No one – they don’t care about that! They want to come out of the shadows! (Forum Q & A – 10:15)

Photo and copyright: Tony's Takes - used by permission
Photo and copyright: Tony’s Takes – used by permission


Towards the end of the question-and-answer session, Hickenlooper was asked about the eleven different fracking and oil and gas initiatives thought to be headed to this November’s ballot.

“I haven’t heard of any funding source for any of them,” Hickenlooper began. “Like the normal, large funders of those initiatives, you know, I haven’t heard of. So, maybe they’ll get on the ballot, but without a lot of money, I don’t think they’re going to do well. I can guarantee you there’ll be money spent showing that, the, the problems associated with any of those initiatives.” (Forum Q & A – 17:05)

Moments later, he added, “Again, we’re going further even than the commission recommended, and in certain cases, to try and give local, local municipal elected officials more, a greater role.”

However, as he continued, he made a strong case to Colorado Forum of the underlying property rights at stake. The governor related a debate he had with an acquaintance during a long flight.

“I said ‘Look, the bottom line is, it’s, it’s private property,’” the governor said. He then made an eminent domain comparison, adding, “In those cases where we said, ‘All right, this person’s private property is going to get in the way of this person’s quiet enjoyment’…if the local community would put up some money and the state would put up some money and we could at least compensate the people that own those mineral rights, then there might be a solution.”

As for the corporate responsibility of the oil and gas companies, Hickenlooper said, “We have (in the state) the most – I think – the most responsible oil companies there are.”

He later added, “I worry about any time you have those kinds of initiatives on your ballot, it’s just a problem. It makes the state look bad.”

File photo - Todd Shepherd
File photo – Todd Shepherd


In unsolicited remarks the governor talked about the single-payer health care ballot question estimated to cost approximately $25-billion a year.

“The single payer issue…I mean, I don’t know what (unintelligible) cost it’s going to be huge. I can’t imagine there’s any chance that it will pass. But I can tell you there are a couple large health care related companies that are looking at moving their headquarters here, and they saw that, that that’s going to be on the ballot, and, and they paused. So I know you guys are looking at why is everything so easy to get on the ballot, I’ll carry that flag in a second.” (Forum Q & A – 20:25)

The meeting and the recording ended seconds after that remark.


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