Grand County commissioner testifies in front of Senate | SkyHiNews.com

Grand County commissioner testifies in front of Senate

Grand County Commissioner Richard Cimino testifies April 26 before the House Committee to lend his support to a bill that would benefit Grand County.

Grand County Commissioner Richard Cimino went to Denver last week to testify before the State Senate in support of two bills concerning individual health care and affordable housing.

Cimino spoke during a committee hearing April 24 on HB 17-1235, Financial Relief to Defray Individual Health Plan Costs. The bill would have created a financial relief program for families who spend more than 15 percent of their total household income on individual health insurance premiums.

"Premiums in rural areas, especially in the eastern plains and western slope areas of the state, are considerably higher than premiums in metropolitan areas," the bill stated. "Many Coloradans in rural areas whose incomes fall between 400 and 500 percent of the federal poverty line are cost burdened in that they spend more than 15 percent of their household income on premiums for health insurance but earn too much to qualify for subsidies available under federal law."

The bill, which was voted down 3-2 by the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs, would have acted as a means to lower health insurance premiums for residents living in Colorado's rural areas.

“I intend to try again next year and every year until health care costs are improved in Grand County.”

— Richard CiminoGrand County commissioner

"But I intend to try again next year and every year until health care costs are improved in Grand County," Cimino said.

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He had more success, however, two days later after he testified in front of the House Committee on Local Government in support of a separate bill, HB 17-1303. That bill doubles document fee payments to the county clerk and recorder when purchasing real estate from one-cent to two cents per 100 dollars of the transaction. For example, buying a $400,000 property will mean an $80 document fee as opposed to the current fee of $40.

The bill passed, 7-6.

The new revenue from the bill will go towards creating and supporting existing affordable housing options in lower populations counties.

Colorado currently does not have a statewide affordable housing fund. According to the bill, counties would have to apply to the state for the extra funding, and money would be limited.

"It's like fighting a fire with a squirt gun," explained Cimino. "The bill will only raise about $7.6 million a year which would only fund two to three projects if our applications are accepted."

Cimino also said that he doesn't want to create county-exclusive projects, but instead intends to work closely with Winter Park, Fraser, Granby and other communities in Grand County to help design and fund affordable housing options.

The bill is being opposed by the Colorado Association of Realtors.

"(The Colorado Association of Realtors) believes increased documentary are akin to transfer taxes and fees," the association said in a statement to Sky-Hi News. "They are regressive and can wind up creating barriers to homeownership by impacting those that can least afford it as they can increase the amount of money needed to purchase a home."

Such transfer taxes and documentary fees are extremely sensitive to market forces, making the frequency of transactions and value of property variable in relation to the strength of the enonomy, which makes these types of funds a poor revenue source for affordable housing, according to the association.

"It is likely that transferring a portion of this fee to a fund not related to the cost of recording deeds is unconstitutional," the statement read.

The bill passed the full House Committee on April 28 in a 35-29 vote and will be heard by the State Senate this week.

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