What The Most Powerful Democrat In The Colorado Legislature Wants

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Photo: Speaker House Hullinghorst 2016 Legislative Preview 2
Speaker of the House Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst speaks with Ryan Warner.

Wednesday is the first day of the 2016 session in the Colorado state Legislature. Colorado Matters wanted specifics from the state's Democratic and Republican parties. Based on a coin toss, we began yesterday with Senate President Bill Cadman, a Republican from Colorado Springs. Today, we hear from state House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, a Democrat from Boulder. She spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner. Below are edited highlights of the conversation.

Hullinghorst on what she wants this session to be remembered for:
"I like to call it about preserving and enhancing the Colorado way of life, and we have a number of things we'll be working on -- from affordable housing, to making sure that we level the playing field for all of our citizens and residents in Colorado so they have a fair shot at succeeding and taking part in that Colorado way of life."

On how she wants to address affordable housing:
"We have a package of bills we've been looking at: extending the housing tax credit. In 2015 alone there were more than 100,000 people who moved to Colorado... the particular tax credit that I referenced is not for individual home buyers, it would be for home builders to build units that are lower cost housing. We do also have a bill that we're looking at that would provide for a tax break, you would actually be able to establish a savings account that would go to home buyers for a down payment or for closing costs and those folks would not have to pay taxes on that savings account."

On the notion that Medicaid is cannibalizing other areas of the budget:
"I actually think that Medicaid has been a very important program. In many ways, the expansion of health care in Colorado has meant that we're spending less for medical dollars than more because we're keeping people out of emergency rooms -- particularly children -- and we all pay for that through our own insurance costs and our own medical costs... We will continue to have some increases just based on population increase, which we naturally have in Colorado but I expect that rate to level off over the next few years, and I believe it's a budget item that's a very important priority for us."

On what the "caucus priorities" are:
"We work together on those things we believe enhance and preserve the Colorado way of life and do the things that we understand our constituents want us to do in a broad framework. We generally don't consider anything a caucus priority if we have differences of opinion among ourselves. We find ways to agree on moving all of those issues forward."