Call to Order - Opening Comments
INTERIM COMMISSION TO STUDY FISCAL STABILITY
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09:09 AM -- Call to Order, Opening Remarks, Conclusion of Discussion from September 19
Following opening remarks, Senator Heath provided a recap of the last part of the conversation from September 19.
Representative Court began the conversation by revisiting the relationship between the core functions of government and the vision we have for what kind of government we want. She remarked that one of the core functions desired by her constituents is the provision of a safety net as part of the base expectations in a civil society, and that a focus on health care is related to the long term discussion of the state's economic and fiscal stability.
Representative Gerou responded that we need not be tied into providing services simply because of our dependance on federal grants. This is a result of trying to be everything to all people. We could rely more on the people of our state and less on the federal and state government.
Senator Heath asked Senator Morse if there is a good middle ground in the way Senator Morse's vision for the state had been articulated during yesterday's discussion. Senator Morse responded by recognizing that all public efforts are collective; they are a collaboration of the community in the solving of public problems. This is the basis of his vision of what the state should be with respect to justice, opportunity, and the American dream. He believes that all the state's citizens can be provided justice and opportunity.
Representative Court related a story about a discussion concerning universal health care. The point being that prevention is a core value of good government functions.
Senator Heath asked Ms Lynne about health care. She responded that access to quality health care is one issue, but that how we create an environment that encourages healthy behaviors via education, information, health care tools, etc., is another important part of good policy. It isn't about how to provide insurance; rather, how to provide actual care (preventative and otherwise) to those who cannot provide for themselves. How do we have an adequate supply of health care professionals in the state? How do we provide the right information, education, and tools? How do we provide health care to those who cannot provide for themselves? These are the important questions.
Ms. Cooke remarked that she never wants the government to tell her, as a parent, what is appropriate for her or her children. There should be no mandates on health care. She does not believe health care is a core function of government; however, she has no objection to the state taking care of those who cannot care for themselves, such as the adult disabled. She reiterated that it should not be a function of government to make sure that an individual is healthy.
Mr. Conway commented that one size doesn't fit all: government cannot be everything to everybody. This approach becomes inefficient especially when we become dependent on federal assistance. There are opportunities, via waivers or other innovations, to bypass some of the requirements of federal dictates linked to federal grants. Senator Heath asked whether we should walk away from federal money. Are we willing to leave that money on the table and forego the assistance? Mr. Conway answered that this should be a case-by-case decision, but that there are ways we can to do it more efficiently. We can question the rule and requirements of federal assistance when those rules are cumbersome and the return on that investment will not be maximized.
Ms. Cooke asked if there is any way to study what the impact will be of the infusion of federal money. Will it require that we maintain these expenses even after the federal money is spent? Will we be committed to continue programs that are initiated with this federal money? Senator Heath answered that the money is designed to meet interim needs and for projects that won't necessarily have to continue. In the case of higher education this may not be the case, but overall the money is one-time assistance as a backfill to current shortages.
Natalie Mullis clarified that most programs are receiving only one time money, however some moneys will go for ongoing projects, such as corrections. Senator Morse asked if the one time money is accounted for in the upcoming economic forecast? Will we know where the infusion of all these funds will plug permanent gaps, and where it will need to be replaced at some point with state funds. Ms Mullis responded that, indeed, we are tracking where this money goes. Renny Fagan remarked that the governor will also be tracking this very closely. Mr Fagan continued that if the state gave up the 50% of federal dollars in Medicaid, how would we provide the same services with half the money. This has been discussed by legislators in the past.
Carol Boigon asked how much money would the state like to leave on the table, because Denver would be willing to take it. The question becomes what strings are attached. The county struggles with caseload allocations, but may have a federal constraint. At the city, much of the constraints were created administratively, at the state level, and can be untangled without jeopardizing the federal assistance. Ms Boigon summarized some of the commonalities that the group has been discussing and Senator Heath tried to carry on that thread of discussing common themes, including the government's role in fostering economic development.
Senator Brophy remarked that keeping taxes low and reducing the regulatory burdens on business will improve our ability to cultivate economic development.