Colorado’s Powerful Budgeting Board Gets to Know the Budget, Each Other | governor

The bipartisan body that prepares the state budget annually met on Monday to begin work with four new members and a new leadership.

The joint budget committee elected Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, an Arvada Democrat who has not always been on par with Gov. Jared Polis or even some of her fellow Senate Democrats, as chairwoman for the upcoming legislative session.

Zenzinger’s time at JBC is not unlike her time in the state Senate, where she serves a 2024 stint.

She first entered the Senate in 2013, replacing the then-Senator. Evie Hudak, who has resigned rather than face a snap election linked to Democrat votes on gun control. Zenzinger lost the Senate seat to Republican Laura Woods in the 2014 election, but beat Woods in a rematch two years later.

Zenzinger joined JBC in 2019 with a focus on education finance. But in 2021, she was replaced — and not by choice — by Senator Chris Hansen, D-Denver.

A leadership shift in the state Senate last year, prompted by the resignation of Senate President Leroy Garcia to take on a role in the Biden administration, left a void on the committee. Zenzinger returned to JBC last year and was elected to another term at JBC by the Senate Democratic faction last week.

Zenzinger was formally elected JBC chair on Monday as the committee chair rotates between chambers and was set to return to the Senate. The committee on Monday elected Rep. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, as its vice chair.

The committee’s composition of four Democrats and two Republicans reflects Democratic control of the House and Senate.

Also on the committee – and new to the JBC – are Republican Rep. Rod Bockenfeld of Watkins; and Rep. Emily Sirota of Denver and Sen. Jeff Bridges of Greenwood Village, both Democrats.

The senior member of the committee is Republican Rep. Bob Rankin of Carbondale, who will begin his tenth year on the committee in the 2023 session.

Monday’s organizational meeting gave members an overview of the body’s processes and the impact on the state budget of voting measures approved by voters over the past week. These include Proposition 121, which lowers the state income tax and then general fund dollars available for the state budget and potentially TABOR refunds; Proposition 123, which will provide approximately $300 million in TABOR reimbursements per year for affordable housing initiatives; and Amendment E, which allows the property tax exemption currently available for seniors and disabled veterans to be extended to the spouses of veterans who died from service-related injuries or illness.

During the next two months, the Joint Budget Committee will hold briefings and hearings on each department of the state government as well as the Public Employees’ Pensions Association.

Briefings, which take place first, allow JBC analysts to speak with the committee about the previous year’s budget and issues the committee should consider. Hearings bring department heads together to answer committee questions and make their proposal for additional funding in the next fiscal year.

Once the legislature starts on January 9th, the JBC will also meet with the reference committees that have oversight responsibility for the government agencies.

Gov. Jared Polis will meet with the committee on Tuesday to consider his proposed budget for 2023-24. Polis has recommended a budget of more than $42 billion, about $6 billion more than 2022-23.

The governor’s proposal forms a template for the 2023-24 budget, but the committee will make its own decisions about what and how state government will be funded. The committee will rely most heavily on two quarterly sales forecasts, which will take place in December and March 20th.

The JBC is also responsible for reviewing requests for additional funding from government agencies, which it will begin reviewing in January. These motions — which can either relate to an increase in funding or, in some cases, a decrease in funding — become bills known as amendments, which have a February 6 deadline for introduction in the Legislature.

After the amendments are finalized, the committee will begin making serious decisions about the 2023-24 state budget. The committee is required by state law to budget only for what is already required by law; It is not intended to provide a budget for new programs that may be legislated in the 2023 session. However, the JBC is setting aside money within budget to cover the costs of these potential new programs.

The committee has a 78th day deadline to introduce the 2023-24 state budget, known as the Long Appropriations Bill. This is March 27th, but if the committee needs more time, the rules can be adjusted to accommodate this.

The lengthy bill will enter the state Senate this year because the JBC chair is Senate. The deadline for the final adoption in the House is April 7, one month before the end of the session. The governor then has 10 days to sign off or veto portions of the budget.

Governors traditionally do not veto specific departmental allocations, although they sometimes challenge General Assembly guidelines on spending on specific programs rather than departments. Governors have from time to time vetoed these policies.

This has led to conflicts between the governor and the general assembly. In 2006, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the governor had no veto power over headnotes defining programs in the lengthy bill. The court also said lawmakers had no right to tell the executive branch how to spend its money, calling it a matter of separation of powers.

The last time a veto was used and overridden by the legislature was in 2007, when Democrats had the trifecta: control of the General Assembly and with a Democrat as governor.

The JBC, and by extension the General Assembly, do not control the number of civil servants. While each department reports the number of full-time equivalents to the JBC, the legislature only controls the funding of those posts and has no say over whether departments add or eliminate posts.