2023-24 state budget includes investments in water, education, community behavioral health services and wildfire mitigation efforts
DENVER, CO – The House today passed the FY 2023-2024 Long Appropriations Bill to invest in families, prepare our students for success, and build healthier communities across the state. SB23-214 passed by a vote of 47 to 16.
The state’s $38.5 billion budget is a $1.2 billion increase over last year’s budget. Two-thirds of that increase is attributable to the end of enhanced federal Medicaid match rates, which are expiring as the declared COVID public health emergency ends.
“Our balanced budget prioritizes our students, supports our economy, and addresses the most pressing needs in our communities," said JBC Vice Chair Shannon Bird, D-Westminster. “This year’s budget includes funding for Universal Preschool, health care providers, and investments to protect our water resources and mitigate wildfires. I’m proud of our bipartisan efforts to create a budget that supports communities, protects critical services and works for all Coloradans.”
“This budget is community-focused, invests in our schools, teachers and critical behavioral health care services and creates a stronger Colorado for all," said JBC member Emily Sirota, D-Denver. "We're making significant investments to get Colorado's universal preschool program rolling, support nutrition assistance for Colorado families and uplift programs that address our workforce and housing needs. I can say we’ve successfully worked together to pass a budget that puts Colorado families first and builds an economy where everyone can thrive."
The budget sets aside a total of $469 million in General Fund for one-time investments to address workforce-related needs, housing affordability demands, economic development initiatives and wildfire mitigation and response resources.
The budget maintains a 15 percent ($2.3 billion) General Fund reserve to bolster state services and operations in the event of an economic downturn, and designates $543 million in cash assets for the State Emergency Reserve to help Colorado respond to disasters like wildfires and floods.
Preparing Students for Success
Increasing Funding for K-12: Preparing our students for success and investing in Colorado’s public schools is a top priority this legislative session. In this budget, the total funding for public schools will increase by $485 million, including a record increase in per-pupil funding by $900 per student. Final action on the budget stabilization factor, per pupil funding, and total program funding will come later in the session through the annual School Finance Act.
Boosting Investments in School Buildings and Facilities: This record investment in our public schools includes $50 million of funding toward Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grants, to create new schools and update and renovate existing school facility systems and structures, plus a $8.8 million increase for public school health services.
Supporting Universal Preschool: To set our state’s youngest learners up for educational success, the budget includes $322 million to jumpstart Colorado’s free Universal Pre-K program. Universal preschool will save families thousands of dollars each year and make it easier for new parents to get back to work, boosting employers, families and the state’s economy.
Investing in Higher Education: The FY 23-24 budget also focuses on the needs of higher education by investing $145 million, a 10-percent increase year-over-year in funding toward state institutions, with a 5 percent cap for in-state tuition increase and additional funding for College Opportunity Fund (COF) stipends from $104 per credit hour to $116 per credit hour for full time students.
Funding Schools and Services for Students with Special Needs: This budget provides $18 million for facility schools and expansions of services for students with specialized needs beyond what can be provided for in a traditional classroom, and $1 million for the School Transformation Grant Program, which trains and supports school leaders working to boost academic achievement in the state’s lowest performing schools.
Focusing on School Safety: To support our students and educators, the FY 23-24 budget creates a new Office of School Safety within the Department of Public Safety and invests $6 million toward the School Security Disbursement Program, which enables school districts and some community based organizations to enhance school security measures and better respond to a crisis.
Creating Healthier, Stronger Communities
Supporting Health Care Providers: This state budget focuses heavily on ensuring Coloradans can live safe, healthy lives in communities across the state. Specifically, this includes a 3 percent provider rate increase, to help providers facing cost increases and implements the new 5 percent across-the-board increase for state employees, ensuring a $15 minimum wage for every state employee.
Expanding Access to Behavioral Health Care: To expand access to behavioral and mental health services for Coloradans, this budget allocates $80 million toward behavioral health community programs to help Coloradans access care in their neighborhood, and includes funding to implement the Office of Behavioral Health.
Increasing Immunization Rates: The budget also includes $3.8 million to bolster staffing and operating expenses to implement a statewide media campaign to increase routine immunization rates through the use of a mobile clinic program.
Housing Support: Everyone deserves a place to live, and this budget works to make critical investments to keep Coloradans housed, including $1.6 million in additional housing support that enable individuals to transition from institutions to living and thriving in their community, and $2.2 million to address factors contributing to youth homelessness.
Saving Coloradans Money on Health Care:
Primary Care Grants: To support uninsured or underserved patients, the budget includes a $14 million allocation toward the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing’s Primary Care Fund Program to increase access to health care services.
Dental Benefits: The budget eliminates the annual $1,500 cap on the adult dental benefits.
Eliminating Medicaid Co-pays: To better support Coloradans, the budget eliminates mandatory copay requirements for Medicaid patients accessing pharmacy and outpatient services.
Supporting parents of new children: $1.7 million investment toward perinatal services, including new doula and donor milk benefits.
Increasing Funding for Nutrition Assistance: The budget includes a $16.7 million investment to meet the increased demand for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), so Coloradans can access and purchase healthy foods.
Safer Communities: To improve the safety and security of communities, the budget invests $5.4 million to help the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and $300,000 for the Children’s Advocacy Centers’ child abuse investigation fund.
Investments for Wildfire Mitigation, Water Resources, and Parks, Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation
Wildfire Response: As Colorado combats harsh wildfires and record-breaking droughts, this budget provides badly-needed funds to help our state better address more frequent environmental disasters. The budget provides $26 million to fund the acquisition of a second Firehawk helicopter which will improve the state’s ability to respond to catastrophic wildfires.
Wildfire Mitigation & Defense: This budget allocates $5 million toward the Colorado Strategic Wildfire Action Program to help our state conduct critical forest restoration. In order to better understand the origins of wildfires in our state, the budget also includes $3.2 million to increase resources for fire investigation and data collection.
Colorado River & Water Plan: To proactively address the Colorado River water crisis and record drought, the budget includes a $1.5 million investment to help the state’s negotiating position and implementation of its interstate commitments related to the Colorado River. The budget also invests $6 million in the Small Communities Water and Wastewater Grant Fund to draw down $60 million in federal funds to improve water quality, and $12.6 million towards implementation of the state Water Plan.
Parks & Wildlife Support: The FY 23-24 budget funds improvements in our natural areas to keep them safe and accessible to more Coloradans and visitors. These investments include support to Colorado’s state parks through increasing resources for the Department of Natural Resources to hire new staff and park rangers, as well as $1 million toward the Colorado Avalanche Information Center Fund to make outdoor recreation safer.