State Budget Gets Bipartisan House OK

(April 5) – With a strong bipartisan majority, the House voted 45-18 this morning to give Colorado a balanced 2013-14 state budget that prioritizes economic development and job creation, education, mental health and child welfare.

All 36 of the House Democrats who were present, and a third of the 27 present Republicans (one member from each party was excused), supported SB13-230, which was sponsored in the House by its Joint Budget Committee members, Reps. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) and Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) with Rep. Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen).

“We have worked across the aisle to achieve every goal that was articulated by Speaker [Mark] Ferrandino and Minority Leader [Mark] Waller in their speeches that first day of session,” Rep. Duran said. “Almost every budget decision coming out of the JBC this year was made unanimously.”

The budget will accelerate job creation, funding a variety of economic development initiatives and including $194 million for 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.

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.

“We put, for the first time in years, more money into higher education,” Rep. Levy told the chamber. “We put more money into K through 12. The work we did with the human services budget I think will truly, truly make a difference in the lives of those who are the most vulnerable.”

The Long Bill 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.

The Long Bill now goes back to the Senate for its concurrence with House amendments.

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