March 29, 2012

(Denver) – The legislative Joint Budget Committee scored a breakthrough today on the 2012-13 budget, reaching a compromise that will avoid further layoffs of state employees in a time of rising state revenues.

The action ended a four-day standoff in the budget-writing committee, which is split 3-3 between Democrats and Republicans.

The compromise calls for a reduction of one percent in state agencies’ “personal services” budget lines. The Judicial Department’s reduction will be one half of one percent. The deal exempts departments that provide emergency services and are on call 24/7, like the State Patrol, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Human Services. Also exempt are departments and agencies with 20 or fewer employees.

Also part of the deal: an additional $23.2 million for higher education and $9.7 million in aid to needy seniors. Agreement also appeared imminent on a $59 million deposit into the state education fund; a $25 million transfusion for the state’s controlled maintenance fund; and increased funding for tourism and the creative industries.

“We worked with our Republican colleagues in a thoughtful and deliberative way to protect Colorado jobs, balance the budget, and eliminate some of the more egregious cuts we were contemplating,” said JBC member Sen. Mary Hodge (D-Brighton). “Our goal all along has been to protect jobs. I’m happy we have found a bipartisan agreement to avoid layoffs, protect seniors and support students. I look forward to the process as it moves forward.”

“We have cleared what I hope were the last major hurdles in our negotiations,” said Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder), a JBC member. “I’m proud we found a bipartisan agreement to support hard-working state employees who provide critical services to vulnerable people. Saving these jobs is good for our economy, and it’s good for the citizens these state workers serve every day.”

With revised estimates over the last week showing a healthier Colorado economy and an additional $200 million in the state budget, Democrats on Monday balked at a Republican proposal to lay off up to 500 state employees.

“Coming into the hearing today we knew we had to get a deal done for Coloradans, and we did,” said Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver), a JBC member. “I’m glad we protected jobs and were able to reduce property taxes for seniors and increase school funding. We’ve been working on this process for months and I’m very glad to have reached this point today.”

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