Colorado House OKs $27B Budget, Sends Bill To Senate

Photo: Colorado State House, State Capitol, December 2015, Southwest Corner, Side, Snow
The Colorado State Capitol.

Updated 11:50 a.m.

The Colorado House Friday gave final approval to a $27 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.

The debate wore on over primarily failed Republican efforts to strip money that was set aside for things like film production incentives and implementation of President Obama’s climate change rules. Republicans instead wanted more money for roads and schools.

"What we’re showing from the Republican side today, is that we believe we need to prioritize spending in the state budget a little bit better than we have," said Republican Rep. Polly Lawrence, the assistant minority leader, on Thursday.

Democrats say bipartisan budget writers already did a remarkable job of staving off deep cuts. And in spite of a long-predicted budget shortfall, the budget provides new money for transportation and increased funding for K-12 schools.

The negative factor -- what the state owes its school districts -- was reduced slightly from $855.2 million to $830.7 million. Per-pupil average spending jumped by $112 to $7,425.

“We have done as much as we possibly can with the dollars that we have available to us," said House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran.

There are some cuts, too. Budget-writers trimmed some $73 million from hospitals, part of a complicated arrangement to avoid even deeper cuts later. And the spending package includes fee hikes for people getting new driver's licenses and other services from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

There's no change to higher education funding, despite Gov. John Hickenlooper's calls for a $20 million cut. And there's no money for pay raises for state employees.

Democrats in charge of the House supported the bill unanimously. Republicans have long-argued the state’s spending priorities are out of whack, so only five members from the minority party voted yes.

Regardless of what the Senate does, the bill will ultimately end up back in the hands of Joint Budget Committee members -- the bipartisan group that wrote the budget. In the end, the $27 billion budget will largely look the same as it did when budget writers submitted the bill last week.