Under the Dome: State budget forecast down
July 14, 2017
My big news this month is my participation with the Lieutenant Governor as co-chair of a reinvigorated Education Leadership Council. We will appoint the members this month and start our work to build a vision for the future of education in our state. It will include all aspects of lifelong learning from the parent as first teacher to senior citizens continuing to learn. It will be more about the process and structure to capture the vision and dreams of parents, teachers, students and taxpayers than mandating solutions from Denver.
Colorado Energy Office: Many of my constituents have been concerned and let me know their desire to keep the CEO funded. The good news is that we now have funding to keep the office staffed until the next legislative session. There were attempts to reach a compromise on this funding and the mission of the office during the last session and those attempts failed. Without legislative support, the Joint Budget Committee should not override the process and approve funding, so I voted against a supplemental measure at our June meeting. I did not vote against the existence of the office, and I will support it if the general assembly comes to agreement.
Joint Budget Committee: I'm honored to serve on this important committee. We work from early November through the middle of May while the regular legislative session only runs from mid-January to May. We try to separate major policy issues from budget decisions, but of course budget is policy and we can't completely separate them. Controversial decisions like the Energy office and the Hospital Provider Fee belong in the larger legislative process that draws in all of the elected Representatives and Senators.
Budget: Our last forecast was down from the March forecast but with a $28 billion total budget and $12 billion of that being general fund from taxes, small percentages are big money. We get another forecast in September and will start to budget to it in November. The big challenges are changes coming to federal Medicaid funding, demands to put more money in education and funding of our transportation needs. Not to mention that the prison population is trending up and we are out of prison space. With the changes to budgeting implemented by SB17-267, we don't have near term expectations of exceeding the TABOR spending limit so our budget will be based on tax collections, fees and federal revenue and there will be no taxpayer refunds. But spending authority is not spendable revenue so funding challenges have not substantially changed.
Outreach: I'll be traveling throughout my three county district 57 in the next few weeks and accompanying Joyce as she visits schools throughout the whole of western Colorado. As always, I want to hear from local government and citizens about their concerns and expectations of state government. Going into my sixth year and session, I still find new dragons to slay almost every day. But I've also learned enough to connect resources and help my district, so let's talk.
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