Governor signs budget bill for next fiscal year
Last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 15-234 (the “FY 2015-2016 Long Appropriations Bill”) and thanked legislators for their bipartisan and collaborative work in preparing the budget, according to a press release.
“We applaud the cooperative spirit displayed by the 70th General Assembly in crafting this bill and its accompanying legislative items,” Hickenlooper said in a letter to lawmakers. “This budget crafts a careful balance between the public needs that accompany a growing economy and the fiscal prudence ahead of looming challenges caused by our conflicting constitutional provisions.”
The next fiscal year’s budget includes these noteworthy items:
■ K-12 education — With the expected passage of the annual School Finance Act, funding for primary and secondary education will increase with inflation and enrollment over the prior year, augmented by an ongoing $25 million reduction in the negative factor.
■ Higher education — The budget provides meaningful support to increase access for all Colorado families to higher education. With nearly $100 million in new general fund appropriations, the state has increased the availability of scholarship opportunities for Colorado students and tuition increases will be below 6 percent. Fiscal Year 2015-16 is also the first year of a bold performance funding model wherein performance factors, school mission, and student success are major components of resource allocations.
■ State infrastructure — The FY 2015-16 budget contains more than $240 million in investments to maintain and improve critical State buildings and systems.
$52 million is set aside to complete the DRIVES project in the Department of Revenue, which will overhaul the IT systems used for drivers’ licenses and vehicle registrations. In addition, this budget provides support for critical building refurbishments in departments ranging from human services to higher education, located all across the state.
■ Child Welfare — To address ongoing challenges with funding for child welfare at the county level, this budget allows for an additional 100 caseworkers in counties throughout Colorado.
■ Transportation — For the first time since FY 2007-08, Colorado will provide meaningful general fund support to transportation needs. In accordance with SB 09-228, we will transfer $102.6 million to the Highway Users Tax Fund to support critical road construction and transit projects.
■ TABOR refunds — Under current law, Coloradans will receive rebates of excess revenue per the provisions of 1992’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. From FY 2014-15 to FY 2015-16, it is estimated that direct refunds to taxpayers will be between $186.5 mil
lion and $340.2 million. This budget also includes the potential liability for a separate rebate of new taxes collected under Proposition AA.
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