Thu February 17, 2011

Senate Democrats Cool to Hickenlooper's Budget

Governor John Hickenlooper is proposing large cuts in funding for K-12 education to balance the state’s budget. But top leaders in the Senate say parts of the Governor’s budget are dead on arrival.

Senate Democrats want to make one thing clear, lawmakers write the budget, not the Governor.

“I’m the president of the senate. My job is to lead the legislature, and that’s what I intend to do,” says Senate President Brandon Schaffer (D-Longmont).

Democrats hold a comfortable majority in that chamber and Schaffer says the budget in its current form won’t fly. “I think the people of Colorado expect us to look at every option in order to preserve funding for education”

With the state facing a $1 billion budget shortfall, Governor Hickenlooper says he had no choice but to propose a roughly $500.00 cut in funding per student in the K-12 system. Bob Bacon (D-Fort Collins) chairs the senate education committee. He says the cuts could be partially offset if the Governor were to scale back his plan to create a 4% reserve from the current 2%.

“The Governor’s plan, as he gives it to us, I certainly hope is in part DOA. We cannot say oh golly gee whiz there’s nothing we can do about it here,” says Bacon.

But it’s a split legislature and Republicans hold a narrow majority in the house. So far Republican leaders have praised Hickenlooper for tacking the tough issues in the budget and making the necessary cuts. In the end the budget will need to pass both legislative chambers.

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