Colorado lawmakers to debate $40.6 billion budget bill

The bill includes more funding for education, corrections staffing, and pay raises for state employees.
Colorado State Capitol
Posted at 4:07 PM, Mar 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-28 09:23:45-04

DENVER — The debate over the state’s $40.6 billion budget bill will begin this week.

For the past several months, six lawmakers who sit on the Joint Budget Committee have spent countless hours crafting the state budget bill, along with the governor’s staff, to determine how to meet the state’s most pressing needs. The budget package was officially introduced on Wednesday.

“For the most part, our committee had strong consensus on, I think, the things that really matter the most,” said State Rep. Shannon Bird, a Democrat who chairs the committee.

Bird said education was one of their top priorities.

“This budget fully funds K-12 education and puts us in full compliance with Colorado's Constitution and Amendment 23,” said Bird. “It's an over $500 million increase in K-12 funding.”

Education advocates applaud the increased spending but say it only brings the state up to 1989 funding levels when you factor in inflation.

“We're only going to be at 1989 funding levels, but it's a step forward,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association.

The budget bill also includes more money for higher education.

“We've seen a downward trend in students going into higher ed,” Bird said. “People simply don't think they can afford to go to college.”

Lawmakers hope $132 million in extra funding will help colleges limit tuition increases to 3% for in-state students and 4% for out-of-state students.

“It's something I know that the institutions themselves care about. And the legislature cares about it as well,” said Bird.

State employees will receive a 3% across-the-board pay increase. It’s part of a new pay plan the state is implementing.

The Department of Corrections, where one in five positions was vacant last fall, will receive additional funding to help attract more workers, including healthcare and social workers, which the department said are desperately needed.

“These are some of the harder-to-fill positions within Corrections, and we need to do something better than we've done before,” said Bird.

Funding levels for specific programs could change as lawmakers debate the budget bill.

The debate will begin in the House before moving to the Senate.

Colorado lawmakers to debate $40.6 billion budget bill

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