Capitol Conversation: The Annual Budget Debate
Passing a balanced budget is the only thing Colorado lawmakers are required to do during the annual 120-day legislative session. A strong economy means there is more general fund money to spend on priority items including roads and schools. The ‘long bill’ as its known has cleared the Democratic-controlled House and now goes to the Senate which is controlled by Republicans.
Statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland breaks down what’s in the budget with reporters Brian Eason of the Denver Post and Ed Sealover with the Denver Business Journal.
On Some of the Big Provisions Passed by The House:
Eason: Lawmakers got $495 million for transportation. They got $150 million to boost annual school funding. And they got $225 million set aside to help with the pension debt. Alongside that Wednesday there was this hours long debate where lawmakers got money for this or that, drug treatment, youth services and for school security. So yeah, pretty much every special interest under the golden dome got some money.
On What Changes the Senate Might Make:
Sealover: [The House] tacked something like 30 to 32 amendments on there. Christmas treeing it up for every special interest program they could. I think there are going to start to be some battles over that. How much money is going to things like school safety or environmental programs or will any money go to film incentives, but the general substance of the budget will stay.
On What Makes the Budget Debate Different This Year:
Sealover: Even last year and this has been typical of most of the last decade the debate has been about what you cut, who’s not getting what they want. This year it was about how much largess do you want to put into various things. Especially after the newest budget forecast showed the state was going to have a $1.3-billion-dollar surplus in next year’s general fund. It wasn’t a question of whether education was going to get funding if transportation was going to get more funding it was just a matter of how much.
Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.