(April 4) – A bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives approved the Long Bill tonight, giving Colorado a balanced 2013-14 state budget that prioritizes economic development and job creation, education, mental health and child welfare.

SB13-230, sponsored in the House by Joint Budget Committee members Claire Levy (D-Boulder), Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) and Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen), was approved by voice vote after eight hours of debate.

“Our improving economy allows us to make smart investments to make that recovery more robust,” Rep. Levy said. “And I’m especially pleased that with this budget we will be able to better protect our most vulnerable citizens – our children, our seniors, our developmentally disabled, our people who can’t afford health services.”

The budget will accelerate job creation, funding a variety of economic development initiatives and investing $194 million in capital construction and maintenance projects, creating thousands of jobs throughout the state and cutting the backlog of deferred maintenance projects.

The House is also adding $3 million in new funds to diversify the economies of rural communities and an additional $2 million investment in tourism promotion to grow Colorado’s second biggest industry. The bill also invests in Colorado state employees, giving them a 2 percent raise across the board, after many of them have not seen a raise in four years.

“We talk a lot about the need to create jobs, to give Coloradans the tools to succeed and accelerate our state’s economic recovery,” Rep. Duran said. “I am proud to say this budget will achieve these goals.”

The budget increases K-12 funding by $127 million to chip away at the painful cuts our students have endured during the Great Recession and its aftermath. And it puts an additional $31 million into higher education operating funds and $5.3 million for financial aid for college students, the first increases for higher education in four years.

It invests $19 million in Colorado’s mental health system, expanding hospital capacity, enhancing Colorado’s crisis response system, establishing a single statewide mental health crisis hotline and improving community care services. And it improves our child welfare system with $10 million for in-home support and prevention services.

The budget also pays off loans and draws down debt obligations, sparing our children from being saddled with our debt in the future, and includes a prudent measure to increase Colorado’s general fund reserve by 25 percent to rebuild the state’s rainy day fund and protect critical state services from future economic downturns.

After a recorded vote scheduled for Friday, the Long Bill goes back to the Senate for its concurrence with House amendments.

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