The General Assembly is halfway through the budget process -- Monday the Senate passed the spending package for next year and ow it begins its journey through the House. But the budget may meet more opposition here than it did in the Senate.
The budget cleared the Senate yesterday with only minor changes. Five senators – three Republicans and two Democrats – voted against it, a much smaller opposition than in recent years. Assistant House majority leader Mark Waller says Senate Democrats honored their end of the budget arrangement and he doesn't expect his party to propose too many changes to the package.
WALLER: "This year everybody has had a seat at the table. We've worked out a good bipartisan budget solution, and I think we have a good bipartisan budget solution. We're going to vote for that."
House Republicans won several concessions in this budget. The package reinstates around $25 million in tax breaks for agricultural products and software. And it doesn't touch most of the money in the state's cash funds; those are accounts supported by various user fees. That's something House Democrats say is a mistake. Minority leader Sal Pace says his party may try to amend the budget to take money from marijuana license fees and other funds to support education.
PACE: "I don't believe in sacred cows, there shouldn't be any sacred cows right now."
Pace is most concerned about the budget's quarter billion dollar cut to schools. That reduction is smaller than what the governor originally proposed, but House Democrats feel it's still too large.
PACE: "It's our right in the House to try to amend the state budget. I don't see that as doing anything that's wrong or obstructionist. It's just us doing our part to represent the citizens of Colorado and the values of the citizens of Colorado."
However, Democrats' amendments aren't likely to get very far; the party would have to win over a couple of Republicans to pass anything. And even then, those amendments would likely be stripped off when the budget goes to conference committee. That's because the committee is usually made up of the same lawmakers who wrote the original budget, and they don't like changing it. Republican Representative Cheri Gerou is one of them. She's happy the end of the budget process is in sight, after weeks of grueling negotiations.
GEROU: "I feel taller, younger, and better looking this week than I did. Three weeks ago I was pretty depressed. It was a very tough process. But the end result I think everybody's pleased with."
House Democrats might not agree with that statement. The depths of their displeasure will become clear later this week. The parties meet separately today to discuss possible amendments. Floor debate on the budget starts Wednesday.
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