In this Capitol Report:
- Colorado Business Organizations: Revise Hospital Provider Fee to Fund Roads and Bridges
- Cost Commission Study Concludes Reducing Copays Increases Health Premiums
- Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program
- BREAKING NEWS: Congress Sends Spending And Tax Package to President
- Congress Seeks to End 40-Year Ban on Oil Exports, Renew Wind and Solar Tax Credits
- Breaking Down the Paris Climate Accord
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State Policy News
Colorado Business Organizations: Revise Hospital Provider Fee to Fund Roads and Bridges
On Wednesday, a broad coalition of 18 business organizations, which includes CACI, sent a letter to the legislative leaders of the Colorado General Assembly and Governor John Hickenlooper urging them to enact legislation during the 2016 legislative session to convert the hospital provider fee (HPF) into an “enterprise fund,” which would then allow money to flow into road-and-bridge construction. Here’s what the letter said:
Regardless of our differing political views on the HPF, we are all strongly supportive of legislation that places HPF funds in an Enterprise Fund. The original law comingles HPF funds with general State revenue, inaccurately impacting revenue growth and creating significant unintended consequences that limit the state’s ability to meet core infrastructure investment priorities.
But there is a solution: Establish a separate enterprise for the HPF by repealing and reauthorizing the fee into an Enterprise Fund.
Because HPF funds did not exist when TABOR caps were established, exempting them through an enterprise results in a more accurate reflection of state revenue growth for TABOR calculations. It also protects the will of voters who supported TABOR, better aligning State revenue with the TABOR cap formula approved by voters.
This new effort, to fix the negative impacts of the hospital fee, is not exclusive of a bonding plan or the rumored effort to seek a sales-tax hike for transportation funding via a ballot initiative, said Loren Furman, senior vice president of state and federal relations for the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry. But the 17 signers of the letter feel that a legislative solution gives the most security for road funding, especially after multiple attempts at other solutions over the past five years have yielded no general-fund money at all for roads, she said.
“If we don’t do something now, I’m going to be talking to you about this for the next four years, and we’re going to have the same problem year after year,” Furman said. “I think the average person is tired of driving over potholes and poorly maintained roads, and the state has not spent an adequate amount on transportation over the last few years.”
For an excellent analysis of the provider fee, how it came to be and the issues surrounding it, read the following:
“Hospital provider fee is a billion-dollar political fight in Colorado,” by John Frank and David Olinger, The Denver Post, December 6th.
Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program
There are thousands of military service members transitioning out of Fort Carson into the civilian workforce each year. These service members have worked in military jobs that have either a direct or indirect correlation to civilian industry. From enlisted to officer, these service members possess the education, training, experience, and high work ethic to be force multipliers in any civilian business. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program seeks to capitalize on the qualifications and the potential of senior non-commissioned and junior to mid-grade officers by offering fellowships at our partner companies in the surrounding regions.
How Does the Program Work?
Installation leadership provides the service members with the opportunity to participate in the 12 week, Monday through Wednesday, Fellowship Program at select partner companies, while they are in their transition phase. The installation will enroll service members in the Corporate Fellowship Program with select businesses promising a high likelihood of full-time employment upon completion.
What Businesses Are Eligible to Participate?
- Company offices must be located within 75* miles of the respective military installation (*distance is flexible)
- Have the ability to train fellows at management-level positions or equivalent professional opportunities
- Offer training in positions typically requiring a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience
- Participate in the networking receptions/graduations with fellows
What Is the Value of Your Business Participating in the Fellowship Program?
- This program narrows your recruiting efforts down to a select, elite few, while affording you the luxury of having extended exposure to each candidate.
- It provides you a fully-funded corporate-level educational program which greatly enhances and sharpens the veteran Fellows’ knowledge, skills, and abilities.
When Does the Program Run?
Cohort 3 – August 15, 2016- November 4, 2016
Cohort 1– February 1, 2016- April 22, 2016
Cohort 2 –May 2, 2016- July 22, 2016
Who Do I Contact?
For participation, questions, and inquiries about the Corporate Fellowship Program please contact Hiring Our Heroes’ Program Manager, Martha Laughman at [email protected].
Federal Policy News
BREAKING NEWS: Congress Sends Spending And Tax Package to President
Today, the Senate completed work by the House and passed two major, end-of-the-year pieces of legislation: $1.8 trillion in spending and tax-expenditure packages.
Both the “omnibus” and the tax extenders packages are headed to President Obama’s desk for signature. The President has said he will sign the funding and tax measures into law, after language fighting the U.S. Department of Labor’s “fiduciary rule” was removed, as well as removing language which would have nullified the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB)’s new joint-employer standard. When the omnibus bill still contained both provisions last week, the White House had issued a veto threat. Congress will now recess for the rest of 2015 and begin the second half of the 114th Congress on January 5, 2016.
See below for a concise run-down of what the omnibus and tax extension bills contain:
Omnibus Outline: What the Omnibus Means to Businesses
- 1-yr reprieve from health insurer ‘premium tax’ & 1-yr delay in ObamaCare calorie rule
- CISA cybersecurity & privacy measures (Rep. Polis among those sending Dear Colleague letter opposing CISA)
- Lifting Oil & Gas Export Ban in exchange for 5-year extensions of expired solar investment & wind production tax credits (significantly: 5-year tax credit clock starts upon construction, not upon bill signing)
- Land & Water Conservation Fund gets 3 more years
- Climate deal gets funding, but EPA funding to remain flat
- Flood insurance plan will see limited (or no) rate increases
- COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) to be repealed – just in time to avoid $1B in retaliatory fines from Canada and Mexico
- $7.1B in disaster/emergency response spending (+$698M to Department of Interior for disaster response such as fire, flood, tornado, hurricanes, etc.)
- Not seen:
- DOL Fiduciary rule language removed (after WH threatened to shut gov’t down over the provision)
- NLRB joint-employer disapproval language removed after received veto threat
- Funds for WoTUS implementation remain intact … Despite GAO ruling that both the EPA process and initial rule creation were illegal
- Democrats’ priority of lifting a federal ban on gun research
Tax Extenders Provisions: Everything not identified below gets a two-year extension (one-year retroactively applied and then through 2016, which means Congress will again addressing tax extenders provisions in late 2016, or early 2017.
Permanent extensions … (Increases spending $160B over 10 years, spending was not offset)
- R&D credit made permanent
- 179 business expensing made permanent
- Exempts subpart F income for active financing
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
- Child Tax Credit
- American Opportunity Tax Credit
Extensions in general …
- Bonus depreciation (a.k.a. 50% expensing) for five years
- New Market Tax Credit & Work Opportunity Tax Credit, both five years
Congress Seeks to End 40-Year Ban on Oil Exports, Renew Wind and Solar Tax Credits
After several weeks of around-the-clock negotiations, Congress has reached a deal on a sweeping, year-end spending package needed to avoid a government shutdown. The $1.5 trillion package funds the federal government through the 2016 fiscal year also includes some significant policy shifts, most notably, an end to the 40-year ban on U.S. oil exports. Ending the ban was a top priority for Congressional Republicans and some Democrats from oil producing states. In exchange for lifting the ban, Congressional Democrats negotiated extensions to renewable energy tax credits vital to the wind and solar power industries.
Congress acted to ban oil exports under most circumstances following a 1973 Arab oil embargo that sent domestic gasoline prices skyrocketing. Until the recent shale oil boom beginning around 2009, the oil export ban received relatively little attention given the U.S. was firmly reliant on oil imports from the Saudi Arabia, other producers in the Middle East, South and Central America, and Canada. In the wake of the shale oil boom, ushered in by the use of hydraulic fracturing and other highly efficient production technologies, U.S. oil production has increased as much as 90% from 2008 levels. Increased production has recently resulted in a surge in domestic supplies. The international Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, has repeatedly acted to maintain its production levels, despite the surge in U.S. production. This combination of higher domestic production levels and OPEC’s sustained production levels has resulted in supply surpluses that have been widely credited with the steep decrease in crude oil prices below $40 per barrel.
The steep decline in oil prices helped build support among Congressional Republicans and overall momentum for lifting the long-time ban on U.S. oil exports, as many industry advocates argued that higher prices could be attained on the international market. The political negotiations regarding renewable energy tax credits for the wind and solar power industries were also key to Congressional Democrats’ decision to agree to lift the ban. While the White House has long opposed efforts to lift the ban, and had initially issued veto threats for any Congressional deal that included measures to lift the ban, the White House has since declined to state that President Obama would veto the sweeping omnibus package over a single issue like ending the oil export ban.
The renewable energy tax credits may have been critical to the White House’s decision to ultimately sign into law the Congressional omnibus that lifts the oil export ban. The plan includes a five-year extension of the investment tax credit for solar power projects and an extension of the production tax credit for wind power projects. The extension of the wind tax credit is retroactive to last year and ends in 2019. Furthermore, the wind credits are pegged to the start of construction of new wind projects, not to production, although the credits phase down 20 percent each year.
Click below to read more regarding the budget deal, ending the oil export ban, and the renewable energy tax credits:
Breaking Down the Paris Climate Accord
On Saturday December 12, 2015, international agreement was struck on what is being proclaimed as a landmark climate accord. With 195 countries party to the agreement, the Paris Accord commits nearly all of the countries in the world to taking significant steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions cited as the primary cause of global warming and climate change.
The Paris Accord is the first major international agreement aimed at addressing climate change since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Unlike previous international agreements, the Paris Accord requires action on the part of all 195 of the signatory counties. While there are no exemptions for poor or developing nations, the agreement puts the burden of leadership and funding on richer developed nations party to the agreement. The preamble includes a non-binding target amount of $100 billion annually that developed nations should aim to contribute to supporting emissions reduction efforts in poor and developing nations.
One of the most important elements of the plan is its focus on limiting the increase of global temperatures over time. The accord states: “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” (page 22)
The plan envisions that to stay within the temperature increase limit of 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, nations would undertake a variety of emission reductions efforts aimed at achieving peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. In theory, once peak emissions are reached, the world could count on a future of continually declining emissions and corresponding decreases in global temperatures. The Accord has already received strong criticism from environmental advocates for its failure to prescribe more concrete emissions reduction requirements and deadlines for compliance.
For a detailed analysis of the 32-page Paris Accord and highlights of the agreement, see the The New York Times Interactive:
Read more about the plan here:
“5 things you should know about the historic Paris climate agreement”