House Dems Pass Bipartisan Budget to Help Colorado Build Back Stronger

DENVER, CO– The House today passed the Conference Committee Report on FY 2021-2022 Long Appropriations Bill (SB21-205) by a vote of 39-24. With the Senate repassing the budget by a vote of 28-6, it now heads to the governor. 

All House Republicans opposed the bipartisan budget, which passed the Senate with near unanimous support, and which helps Colorado recover faster and build back stronger. The budget restores cuts to essential services, significantly boosts support for K-12 and higher education, and provides critical funding for the state stimulus package that will create jobs, boost rural Colorado, and grow our economy.

“This bipartisan budget will help Colorado recover faster and build back stronger,” said JBC Vice Chair Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon. “I’m so proud of the work we did this year. By making historic investments in K-12 education, mental health services, and our state’s economic recovery, we’re enshrining our values in our budget and setting Colorado up for sustained economic success. This budget is a labor of love, the product of months of work from our colleagues, JBC members and, of course, our wonderful JBC staff.”

“The state budget we gave final approval to today meets the moment and makes careful and robust investments to craft an equitable economic recovery for Colorado,” said JBC Member Leslie Herod, D-Denver. “After a year of economic uncertainty and turmoil, this budget truly charts the course for the Colorado Comeback- investing $800 million in our state stimulus plan and increasing funding for K-12 education by over $480 million. As we work to build Colorado back stronger, we are proactively ensuring that low income folks and communities of color aren’t left behind. This budget meets that goal.”

Colorado’s $35.9 billion budget funds core state services, such as education, corrections, health care, and human services. A significant portion of the state budget comes from federal matching funds, with lawmakers having direct control of the state’s $13.1 billion General Fund. Last year, budget forecasts estimated the state would face a significant revenue decline, leading lawmakers to enact historic reductions while still prioritizing critical services and education. With the economy and state revenues recovering faster than anticipated, the budget returns funding to pre-pandemic levels while responsibly setting aside historic reserves for the future. 

Putting Students, Teachers, and Parents First

  • Restores K-12 Funding, Cuts Budget Stabilization Factor Nearly in Half: The FY21-22 Long Bill brings the budget stabilization factor back to its pre-pandemic level of $572 million by increasing K-12 education funding by over $480 million. 
  • Resumes and Accelerates State Support for Institutions of Higher Ed: After being forced to nearly eliminate state support for institutions of higher education, lawmakers boosted funding in this year’s budget by $494 million to restore the prior year’s reduction. The bill also allocates an additional $100 million to be used for recruitment and retention including additional financial support for first generation, underrepresented minority, and pell eligible students. 
  • Increased Resources for Students: This budget prioritizes accessible teaching and learning resources for students to succeed including $3 million for state grants to public libraries and over $1 million to CDHE’s Open Educational Resources program which provides grants to institutions to develop educational programs using 100 percent publicly available teaching materials. The budget also appropriates $7..2 million to restore K-12 education grant programs including the behavioral healthcare professionals grant program, the K5 social and emotional grant program, the 9th grade success program, the school leadership success program, the AP exam fee grant program and the automatic enrollment in advanced courses program. 
  • Invests $160 Million in School Infrastructure (BEST Fund) and an additional $100 Million for the State Education Fund (SEF): After nearly eliminating funding last year for the Building Excellent Schools Today grant initiative, lawmakers this year will invest $160 million to construct, renovate, or maintain school facilities and structures. The SEF funds teacher recruitment, full-day kindergarten, early literacy programs, and helps finance public school systems across Colorado. 
  • Prioritizes the Teacher Recruitment Education and Preparation program: The JBC set aside $13.4 million for a teacher recruitment toolkit to be established in collaboration with the departments of education and higher education. The set aside includes restorations to CDE’s Quality Teacher Recruitment program and CDHE’s Educator Loan Forgiveness program. In addition, the budget restores CDHE’s teacher mentor grants program and the rural teacher recruitment, retention, and professional development program.  

Creating Jobs, Getting Colorado Back on Track, and Building Back Stronger

  • $800 Million State Stimulus: The budget sets aside $800 million for the Colorado Recovery Plan, which will create jobs and boost the Colorado Comeback. 
  • Creating Jobs Through Investing in Capital Construction Projects: The bill tackles a substantial portion of the state’s capital project backlog by nearly doubling the long bill appropriation for capital construction, creating jobs through creating, maintaining and improving capital construction projects. The bill includes $217.4 million for the capital construction fund, initiating shovel-ready projects at institutions of higher education and across state government.
  • Expanding Job and Skills Training Initiatives: The budget prioritizes workforce and training opportunities through a variety of programs including restoring CDHE’s Colorado First Customized Job Training program, DOC’s Transitional Work Opportunity program, and DHS’ Colorado Works Subsidized Training and Employment Program. 
  • Investing in IT Infrastructure & Transportation: This budget package makes significant investments in IT infrastructure including funding for the Office of eHealth Innovation’s Rural Connectivity project, updates to the states unemployment insurance system, and numerous investments in higher education equipment and technology to support increased virtual learning opportunities. In addition, with $124 million set aside for transportation, the budget sets Colorado on a path to address CDOT’s $9 billion project backlog. 
  • Addressing Health Disparities: The budget helps Colorado build back stronger by providing over $5 million to combat racial and income-based health disparities that are hurting Colorado communities.
  • Boosting State’s Wildfire Response: After a historic wildfire season and with another one on the way, the budget appropriates $26.2 million for firefighting contracts, aircraft, personnel and state assistance for local response efforts.
  • Building the Reserve and a New Rainy Day Fund: The budget sets aside historic reserves to mitigate downside risks to the forecast and creates a new rainy day fund to provide an additional safety net should state revenues collapse or should the state see a surge in caseload and demand for services.
  • Supporting the Judicial Branch: Recognizing the rise in court cases once trials resume, the budget responsibly allocates funding to increase staffing within Judicial courts and probation as well as within the offices of the public defender, child protection ombudsman, and the public guardianship. The budget also sets aside funding to expand the Senior Judge program to help address the backlog of cases anticipated.

Supporting Colorado’s Most Vulnerable

  • Veterans: The budget provides $500,000 in Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to provide grants to enhance workforce center services for veterans, an increase of $200,000 over last year. The Colorado Recovery Act will provide $30 million for a start up loan fund, which will support veteran-owned small businesses. The budget includes $59.4 million for the veteran community living centers, and $425,000 for National Guard tuition assistance. 
  • Supporting Hospitals that Treat Uninsured Patients: The bill provides $48.2 million for hospitals that serve a higher share of low-income or uninsured patients. This funding draws down $27 million in federal funds. The funding supports several rural hospitals. 
  • Ensuring Coloradans Have Access to the Care They Need: With access to health care essential for every Coloradan, the budget affirms the state’s commitment to Health First Colorado, the state’s Medicaid program. It provides $460.1 million for medical care and long-term services such as nursing homes and community-based services. The funds pay nursing home care, senior dental programs, behavioral health, and vaccine administration.
  • Expanding Access to Mental and Behavioral Health: The bill provides nearly $60 million in additional funding to behavioral health programs, providing critical funding for prevention, treatment, and recovery services, wrap around services for children in crisis, and investments in IT systems to streamline eligibility and claims processing. 
  • Addressing the IDD Waitlist: The JBC allocated $22 million to protect essential Medicaid benefits including $15.5 million to the Adult Comprehensive Waiver to fund 667 spots on the comprehensive waiver waitlist for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

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