6:00am

Tue April 9, 2013
Politics

Colorado Lawmakers Wrap Up Work On The ‘Long Bill’

The only thing Colorado lawmakers are required to do within their annual 120 day session is approve a budget. And despite some sharp disagreements between Democrats and Republicans last week, work on what’s known as the ‘long bill’ is largely over.

The House approved the more than $20 billion budget on Friday. Overall, lawmakers do have more money to work with this year in the general fund. But that doesn’t mean the work has been smooth sailing.

KUNC’s Brian Larson spoke with Colorado Statesman publisher Jody Hope Strogoff about the budget process and what’s next.

K-12 and higher education saw the brunt of budget cuts in recent years but money has been added back in as well as other areas.

Interview Highlights…

On who the winners are in the budget…

“The budget actually increases K-12 funding by $127 million. The long bill invests $3 million in news funds for rural communities and an additional $2 million investment in tourism promotion to grow Colorado’s second largest industry. The mental health system in Colorado will get an increase of $19 million and the budget pays off loans and draws down debt obligations. It also increases the Colorado general fund reserve by 25 percent and will also help the state’s rainy day fund.”

State employees will also receive a 2 percent raise which is their first in four years.

On partisan nature of crafting the budget…

“Not everybody is happy. Some Republicans in the House were especially peeved. They had tried to get a million dollars into the budget for the tourism office to promote a PR effort to explain why the Governor signed three gun control measures. That did not pass. Republicans also lost out a few other amendments including background checks for gun transfers and the Colorado Energy Office which has come under fire for mishandling some of its funds, Republicans tried to get an amendment to cut their funds and it failed as well.”

On the bill going back to the Senate to iron out House differences…

“When you look at this budget it did get bipartisan support. Republicans are pleased that they were also able to add $30 million for water construction projects in Colorado. And Colorado will also be able to pay down the state’s pension fund for firefighters and police officers and that’s the results of some Republican amendments. So there were some victories on both sides and I look for the Senate not to be too contentious, iron out a bill and send it up to Governor Hickenlooper to sign it.”

Jody Hope Strogoff is the publisher of the Colorado Statesman.