Colorado's budget committee is now more than a week behind schedule to introduce a spending bill for next year. Legislative leaders say progress is being made, but all the negotiation are so far happening behind closed doors.
For the second week in a row, the Senate is keeping its calendar clear, in anticipation of eventually having a budget to debate. But disagreements between Senate Democrats and House Republicans have the bill in limbo. House Speaker Frank McNulty says the two sides already agree on the vast majority of the spending plan. (:16, :28)
MCNULTY: "We're 99 percent of the way there and it's just a question of gaining that last 1 percent and think there's the opportunity to do that."
The sticking points are several companion bills required to keep the budget balanced. Some would reinstate tax exemptions the Democrats took away last year. And one – backed by House Republicans – would allow local governments to effectively lower employee salaries by two percent. Democrats oppose that measure and McNulty says he'd consider withdrawing it, but--
MCNULTY: "...they would have to help us understand how we do a better job softening the blow to K-12 cuts to school districts, of how we do a better job of helping municipalities in keeping the lights on."
Senate President Brandon Shaffer says House Republicans are being inconsistent with their demands concerning the salary cut bill.
SHAFFER: "At one point today I was told that it was not a condition, at another point I was told that it was. And that just is reflective of the frustration we've had throughout the negotiations is we don't know exactly where the finish line is to get it done."
Shaffer has threatened to introduce his own budget, with the support of Senate Republicans, if the budget committee can't come to agreement. Yesterday though, he wouldn't give a deadline to do that.
SHAFFER: "So long as the JBC continues to make progress, we will give them the time that they need to negotiate."
The Joint Budget Committee has been holding those negotiations behind closed doors. While the discussions are public under Colorado law, the meeting places haven't been announced and the discussions aren't being broadcast like a regular hearing. The budget committee and legislative leadership will resume their negotiations today.