A Bipartisan Balancing Act

(March 23) – The Joint Budget Committee this afternoon completed drafting the state budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which begins in July.

“We have reached agreement on a budget that reflects Colorado priorities as a whole,” said Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, vice chairwoman of the Joint Budget Committee. “This budget is the product of a painstaking, bipartisan process of identifying and funding competing priorities.”

“This was a difficult balancing act, but we did it with bipartisan support,” said Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, a JBC member. “We have a balanced budget that lives within our means and within our budgetary constraints.”

Some of the notable increases in state spending as proposed under the “long bill” are:

· $618 million, mandatory, to increase the state’s statutory reserve
· $222 million for capital construction other than transportation projects
· $200 million, mandatory, to meet the constitutional requirement for K-12 education
· $184 million, mandatory, to meet increasing Medicaid caseload
· $128 million, mandatory, for the Highway Users Tax Fund to build and maintain roads and bridges
· $126 million, mandatory, to fund the senior homestead property tax exemption
· $117 million, mandatory, to be set aside for refunds to taxpayers under TABOR
· $100 million for higher education
· $63 million, mandatory, to handle increased caseload in the Department of Corrections
· $58 million, mandatory, for TABOR refunds of taxes levied on recreational marijuana
· $25 million to reduce the “negative factor,” the state’s K-12 spending shortfall

“I wish we had more to apply to K-12 funding,” Rep. Hamner said. “But our statutory and constitutional constraints made that impossible.”

“In a split legislature, neither side was going to get everything it wanted,” Rep. Young said. “Our practical obligation was to avoid robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

After several days of typing and proofreading, the “long bill” will be debated in the Senate next week.

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