Apr 18, 2022 - News

Democratic lawmakers want relief from new fees they put into law

Illustration of a spotlight moving over a dollar sign in the dark.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic lawmakers are touting legislation to save people and businesses money this year.

  • How? By postponing new fees they put into law in recent years.

Why it matters: Democrats — who control all of state government — are focused on lowering costs as affordability becomes the central issue of the 2022 election.

  • Yet, the fact that they approved and supported new fees undercuts their argument.

Driving the news: A measure to temporarily delay the new road usage fees and lower vehicle registration surcharges debuts in a legislative committee on Monday.

What's more: Two other measures advancing at the Capitol would lighten the load of new fees on businesses that Democrats implemented.

  • Mandatory payments into the state's new family and medical leave program begin in January, but now legislation would lower the required contributions from 0.9% of a paycheck to 0.81%.
  • The increased surcharges on businesses — approved in 2020 to replenish the state's unemployment trust fund — would lessen as part of an effort to infuse the system with $600 million in new money.

Between the lines: The budgetary maneuvering would use federal pandemic relief dollars and surplus state revenue to cover the missing revenue.

  • "It's important for us to give relief to our constituents and to Coloradans who, over the course of the last few months, have seen a very significant increase in gas prices," state Rep. Dylan Roberts (D-Avon) told the Colorado Sun.

The other side: Republican lawmakers say Democrats are now seeing the unpopularity of their fee hikes. "That's not surprising they are delaying implementation … they are trying to minimize the pain that mostly they caused," Sen. Chris Holbert, the Republican leader, told John.

  • "If you really cared, you'd just repeal it," quipped Jesse Mallory, state director for the conservative Americans for Prosperity.

Of note: AFP is one of two conservative groups alongside others who filed a lawsuit earlier this month designed to invalidate the new road usage and gas fees.

  • They argue the added costs violate a new voter-approved state law that requires a statewide vote for new fee-funded enterprises.

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