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Gov. Polis' $40 billion budget proposal tackles crime, homelessness, labor shortage

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Posted at 3:40 PM, Nov 01, 2021

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis on Monday announced his state budget proposal for the 2022-23 fiscal year, calling on increased spending to fight crime and homelessness and a plan to help employers find workers amid a tight labor market.

The $40 billion budget proposal is a 3.9% increase from last year and many of the biggest proposals are aimed at continued recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic that is being blamed for many of the problems his budget proposes to help fix.

The 92-page proposal includes a $113 million public safety package to help reverse an upward trend in crime occurring in the state over the last couple of years.

The biggest chunk of the money allocated to public safety will go toward behavioral health, with $47.9 million for mental health strategies to prevent at-risk individuals from becoming involved in the criminal justice system.

The package also includes more than $16 million for police recruiting efforts and mental health services for officers.

“The public safety package is a bold investment to reduce crime, ensure safer streets, build diversity of our public safety workforce, and provide support training and financial support for our hard-working police officers,” Polis said during a press briefing Monday.

Polis is also trying to tackle the homeless crisis in his budget proposal as he says the issue has risen to a state priority. The governor wants to spend $200 million from the Economic Recovery and Relief Cash Fund for emergency shelters, transitional housing, recovery care, as well as permanent housing.

“Our key priorities include $100 million to leverage with local and external resources for a competitive grant program to help local communities invest in community response to reduce homelessness, and an investment in two key supportive residential recovery campuses. This is to help get people off of substance abuse, alcohol and drugs,” Polis said.

Another major issue that could be seen as stemming from the pandemic is the struggle for employers to find workers. Polis is proposing $51 million to help ease the labor market shortage through short-term credentials and apprenticeships. He is also asking to invest in several key segments including public education, small business support, and childcare support.

Other proposals in the budget include a $1.84 billion investment to prepay some of the state’s most important programs to prepare for economic uncertainty, the governor said.

A bipartisan Joint Budget Committee in the Colorado legislature will begin meeting this month to go over Polis' proposal.

The budget will be finalized in March or April, when it will then be introduced in the legislature and then returned to Polis' desk for approval. Colorado law requires a balanced state budget.