Capitol Conversation: Colorado’s Budget Shortfall Could Mean Tough Choices For Lawmakers

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Colorado's latest revenue forecast shows that state lawmakers will have to fill a larger budget gap than anticipated -- a $696 million gap. Bente Birkeland spoke with other statehouse reporters about what this could mean for the state budget.

Here are highlights from her conversation with Kristen Wyatt from the Associated Press and Peter Marcus with  

On what the shortfall will mean for budget negotiations: 

Marcus: They're going to have some really tough decisions ahead of them. From what I've been hearing, some of the magic tricks that they had been using in years past to come up with this money with Senator Pat Steadman [who was term limited] being on the Joint Budget Committee somehow always coming up with these things, they have not been finding those same rabbits in the hat this year.

On how the budget debate could influence support for a measure to ask voters for a sales tax increase for roads:

Wyatt: This could actually help that bill pass. To say, "Look, we've got needs here. We know we've got roads that are a mess." You even have ... leading Republicans saying, "I hate the roads, I've ruined all my trucks on these terrible roads." And maybe this revenue forecast picture -- that times are not as good as some hope -- could help pass that bill.

On how the Trump administration's proposed budget could impact Colorado:

Marcus: They could go through the trouble, come up with the money that they need to balance this budget after all the debate and all the work, and then find out that the federal government -- that the budget is going to strip Medicaid money or any number of other things, and then all of the sudden our budget is in flux again, and the governor could potentially call a special session over the summer, have lawmakers come back and find a way to balance it. 

Wyatt: Nobody ever wants to come back for a special session, but if the U.S. House and the Congress pass a bill that strips Medicaid immediately instead of waiting until 2020, we will have no choice. We'll have to be back here at the Capitol this year.

Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.