Colorado lawmakers question Polis budget proposal – Pagosa Daily Post News Events & Video for Pagosa Springs Colorado

This story by Sara Wilson appeared on the Colorado Newsline on November 16, 2022.

When Gov. Jared Polis presented his budget proposal to the Colorado Legislature’s joint budget committee on Tuesday, members urged him on its sustainability and compatibility with previous commitments.

Its proposed budget for fiscal 2023-2024 is $46 billion in spending, including a $16.7 billion general funding proposal. It requires 15% reserves.

“This budget, in a way, doubles the work to make our state more affordable, safer, cleaner, and ready for a natural disaster or a rainy day financially. Those are the values ​​that drive the budget and the goals — hopefully, values ​​that we can find common ground and agree on should inform many of the important decisions about what we’re doing ahead,” Polis told the committee responsible for the design of the next year is responsible budget.

In addition to the motion Polis filed on November 1, he will also present an additional budget in January, which will be informed by the forthcoming financial forecast in December.

During their meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday, committee members urged Polis specifically to focus on the budget stabilization factor, which refers to the amount of money the state owes schools based on a formula but masquerades as other priorities. The state’s debt to schools is not eliminated in this budget proposal because the governor’s office fears that this would be unsustainable given the increased fiscal pressures leaving little headroom.

Polis said any additional spending in the fiscal cycle would likely come at the expense of education.

Rep. Julie McCluskie, a Dillon Democrat who will serve as speaker of the next session of the House of Representatives, asked Polis and Lauren Larson, the director of the governor’s office of state planning and budgeting, about the plan of the proposal, the budget stabilization factor on its current level, as well as the commitment of the legislature in the current budget to buy off the debt and invest in state education.

“We made a commitment last year. We invested in the State Education Fund to protect the buyback we made, but what do you see for the next year or two?” she asked Larson.

Larson responded that because the general fund “cannot handle this increase and cannot sustain this growth,” it was necessary to spread this obligation between the general fund and the education fund. The State Education Fund is currently maintaining a “healthy” balance, she said, necessary to sustain the $250 million purchase of the budget stabilization factor.

She commended the committee’s action last year to set aside about $300 million in the education fund when the general fund failed to meet its commitments.

“What we’re seeing is that time will be in fiscal 2025,” she said. The money saved last year will be essential for balancing the budget next year and should therefore not be spent this year, she said.

“The governor has also proposed a multi-year plan for buying back the budget stabilization factor. I know it’s so important to so many of you and stakeholders in Colorado, so his plan is really about what we can do to keep funding going and that there are no ups and downs for school districts on funding will,” Larson said.

McCluskie said she appreciates the focus on sustainability after three difficult years for public schools.

“I hope that if the projections come in, and we continue to see our economy thrive and grow, we can maintain that commitment this year and not even have to give up this modest buyback of the BSF,” she said.

Senator Jeff Bridges, a Greenwood Village Democrat, questioned Polis about including $10 million in match funds in the budget proposal to allow local governments to take advantage of funding opportunities. He said rural communities in particular often lack the technical expertise to even apply for grants and miss out.

“We as legislators create all these grant programs and expect that they will do a lot of good out there, but the people they would help the most never apply because the administrative process we put in place is too difficult,” he said said.

Larson responded that the issue was “top priority” for the state’s salvage team and that recent laws allow these types of funds to be used for technical assistance.

In his presentation, Polis also highlighted the budget proposal’s investment in affordable housing. It includes $15 million for public-private partnerships to build units on government-owned land, such as B. A shovel-ready project in Eagle County that includes $2 million from the state for 80 units on land owned by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Proposition 123, passed last week, also provides more revenue for “affordable housing” — a tricky definition that Polis says should be left to local governments to decide according to their situation and needs.

“We are indifferent. We just want housing,” he said. “We are more interested in units as we build them. If they want something local, mid-range or market, we agree that that (decision) is local.”

Other highlights from Poli’s budget request, which he spoke about Tuesday, include $1.9 million to conduct a technical analysis to protect water rights along the Colorado River, $10 million to prepare providers to roll out one universal preschool next fall and a pay rise above the flat 5% proposal for hard-to-fill jobs like prison staff and snow plows.

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