Colorado lawmakers this week began discussing the state’s $ 34.1 billion budget, which helps chart a pathway out of the coronavirus crisis and allocates millions of dollars to equity-related initiatives and a historic sum for future economic contraction.
The legislature was able to reverse the funding cuts made as the pandemic reached the state last year, and lawmakers now have hundreds of millions to spend more than they expected because Colorado’s economy was better than expected during the pandemic.
“It is an interesting time for the budget, given the severity and extent of the cuts that were required last year compared to this year,” the senator said. Dominic Moreno, a business city Democrat and chair of the Joint Budget Committee, which writes the budget. “It turns out that not only were these (cuts) necessary, but we can in fact build on the recovery of those cuts and the ability to allocate additional resources to meet the country’s most urgent needs.”
Bipartisan budget measure, Senate Bill 205It is expected to land in the Senate floor on Thursday before heading to the House of Representatives next week.
We spoke with government budget makers and combed through the budget bill to determine what you need to know about spending:
More: Colorado’s budget drives the decisions that affect us all, but they are long and complicated. We’re here to help.
$ 3.8 billion
This is how much more money lawmakers are spending in fiscal year 2021-22 than they did in the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
The budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 is $ 34.1 billion. The budget was $ 30.3 billion for the current fiscal year. In fiscal year 2019-20, the budget is $ 30.5 billion.
Part of the reason the budget is so much bigger is that last year lawmakers made cuts that were ultimately unnecessary. The remaining funds are reflected in the new budget and allow lawmakers to “temporarily bridge the gap”.
Senator. Bob Rankin, a Republican from Carbondale and a member of the Joint Budget Committee, said he was concerned about how much money lawmakers had to spend.
“The least favorable part is that we have a lot of money,” he said. “I know that sounds weird, but I’m still a conservative and I just have a hard time dealing with (having) so much money that we can’t be frugal. We can’t be good money agents because there is so much of it.”
However, this additional revenue is a one-time boon and lawmakers cannot count on a lot of money in the coming years.
“This budget really prepares us for the fact that revenues are recovering,” Moreno said. “They are not at the level where they can maintain the budget that we were in before the epidemic.”
US bailout plan
Colorado state coffers received $ 3.9 billion as part of the recently passed coronavirus stimulus bill called the US bailout.
However, these funds are not reflected in the total amount of the state budget 2021-22. That’s because lawmakers are still working to determine how the money will be spent. A statewide listening tour Underway For people who want to post ideas.
Lawmakers take this cash flow into account, however, when they consider their spending priorities.
$ 800 million for the state’s stimulus package
Colorado’s new budget has allocated $ 800 million – up from the $ 700 million initially planned – for a package of bills designed to help people cope with the ongoing economic and health impacts of the coronavirus crisis.
The legislation It is still being raised, But the bulk of the spending will be on infrastructure projects, including expensive repairs to the Eisenhower Johnson Memorial Tunnels on Interstate 70.
House Speaker Alec Garnett said the bill introduced this week would allow restaurants to keep up to $ 70,000 a month in what they usually owe the state in sales tax in the coming summer months.
“These months are key,” Garnett told Democrat Denver. “As the weather continues to warm, as people continue to get vaccinated (you will) start to see more economic activity.”
Garnett also promoted action that would help the state draw conferences and events back into Colorado to stimulate economic activity on “major streets across the state.”
$ 480 million passive agent
The negative factor, also known as the budget stabilizer, is the annual lack of funding for K-12 schools in Colorado. It was created during the Great Recession to allow state legislators to withhold funds owed to school districts legally despite funding requirements in the Colorado Constitution.
State Senator Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat, said the $ 480 million in the next fiscal year’s passive budget would cover about half of what is owed to schools next year. The rest will come from the $ 1.1 billion injection of the US bailout.
“We basically wiped out the negative factor in the next two fiscal years,” Hansen said, explaining that he hoped the funds would allow schools to compensate children who were left behind by COVID-19.
More: A guide to how Amendment 23, “The Budget Stabilizer” and “The Negative Factor”, shapes education spending in Colorado
Hansen said lawmakers now need to look to the fiscal years 2023-24 and 2024-25 and how to address the downside in those years. Colorado lawmakers would still owe schools at least $ 572 million in those years.
The budget will also allocate $ 100 million to the State Education Fund as a rainy day pool to draw from in future years.
Chalk Reports The budget also calls for the state to spend $ 5 billion on education from kindergarten through the end of high school, which means schools will get around $ 7.8 billion when provinces add their own tax revenues. The amount represents a roughly 9% increase over the current fiscal year, which translates into an average allocation per county pupil of $ 8,857.
3% increase for state employees
The budget calls for the nearly 30,000 Colorado government employees to be given a 3% increase, which is more than the 2.05% increase proposed by Gov. Jared Police.
Why the higher amount?
“We looked at the inflation numbers and they were above 2.5%,” Hansen said. “And we had a situation where the salary survey showed that state employees are far below the market.”
Colorado Wins, the union that represents state employees, said it was pleased with the increase.
“We are delighted to have it,” said Hillary Glasgow, who drives Colorado Wins. “We were happy with 3%.”
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The budget also restores the annual distribution of $ 225 million to the public servants ‘retirement association legislature, the state employees’ pension fund, but not until fiscal year 2022-23. Lawmakers delay spending another year because PERA is in better condition than expected and feel it can wait for the diversion.
However, lawmakers are allocating money from PERA’s windfall gains this year that could be leveraged further.
“We have already moved away, on top of that, by about $ 380 million to meet future PERA commitments to the state,” Moreno said, which will relieve pressure on future legislatures.
‘Inaudible’ Reserve Savings
The budget allocates about $ 1.75 billion to the Colorado Reserve Fund, which is in place to help lawmakers deal with an economic downturn or unexpected government expenditures.
“I think the reserve of 13.5% is unheard of,” Moreno said. “The time I spent on the Capitol was number one.”
Hansen described the savings as “historic.”
“We did not have this level of reserves for a very long time,” he said. “I don’t know the exact year, but decades have passed.”
In fiscal year 2022-23, lawmakers plan to go even further with a budget reserve of 15%. Hansen thinks it is imperative to deal with “the vast amount of economic uncertainty at the moment”.
An additional $ 20 million for people with developmental disabilities
One of the most popular budget lines among the six members of the Joint Budget Committee is a $ 20 million line to create more than 500 new, round-the-clock care boxes for people with developmental disabilities.
“This is buying about a quarter of the people waiting for state services on the waiting list (for people with intellectual disabilities),” Hansen said. “I think that’s an important distinction.”
Rankin said this is his favorite part of the 2021-22 budget.
“I think you’ll hear that from a lot of us,” he said.
Millions for equity initiatives
State budget makers have made equity a large part of their spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year. While many of the initiatives have yet to be revealed as part of the government’s $ 800 million stimulus package, lawmakers are highlighting one higher education initiative as evidence of their commitment.
The budget sends an additional $ 100 million to state colleges and universities to help first-generation, underrepresented students who qualify for the Pell Grant Program.
“These are the students who have the most difficulty staying in school and completing” their degrees, Hansen said.
The spending comes after lawmakers cut their contributions to public funds by 58% for the current fiscal year. The new budget calls for the restoration of those cuts, in addition to an additional $ 100 million.
The legislature also allows tuition fees to rise by up to 3% for students at all colleges and universities run by the state, but University of Northern Colorado, licensed to raise tuition fees by 7%.