An Austerity Budget Proposal

(Nov. 2) – After Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office released a 2016-17 budget request this afternoon, with tax refunds forcing myriad cuts to the services Coloradans expect from their state government, Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, the incoming chairwoman of the Joint Budget Committee, said, “If this is not the fabled death by a thousand cuts, it comes pretty close.”

Under the governor’s proposal, the K-12 “negative factor” would get $50 million worse and the state education fund would be cut by $240 million. Higher education would take a $20 million cut, meaning tuition rates would go up. The proposal would cut $50 million from medical provider reimbursements, and our hospitals would take a $100 million hit, which gets doubled when matching federal payments go away.

“At a time when we should be investing in our kids’ education, our rural and Western Slope hospitals and our roads, we’re making cuts and issuing refunds instead,” Rep. Hamner said. “That makes no sense.”

“The governor has done what he has had to do under the existing constitutional and statutory constraints,” Rep. Hamner continued. “I look forward to working with the governor and the other members of the Joint Budget Committee because I think we can do better for the people of Colorado.”

“We knew the next budget was going to be difficult,” said Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, a JBC member. “The governor’s proposal clearly shows us that we are going to have to make some very tough choices next year. These choices will result in painful cuts to schools, roads, mental health services, rural healthcare and many, many other priorities for the people of Colorado.”

“It’s galling to have to consider budget cuts at a time when we ought to have enough money to at least maintain the existing level of services,” said Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder. “Thankfully, there are short- and long-term options available to the legislature that would allow us to avoid these cuts, and I look forward to working in a bipartisan fashion with my colleagues in the legislature next session to do just that.”

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