Under the Dome column: Balanced at $28.9 billion
Under the Dome
The Colorado House of Representatives first, and then the Senate, passed the “long bill” budget for the 2018/2019 fiscal year. We still have the conference committee this week to resolve differences between House and Senate amendments. Colorado’s constitution requires a balanced budget, unlike some other states. Even though constitutional amendments and previous statutes complicate our budget, we have a strong tradition and history of balanced budgets in good times and bad.
Thanks to a dramatically better economy, we had over $1 billion more to spend than in last year’s budget. We were able to set aside $495 million for transportation, an extra $150 million for K-12 education (over and above normal inflation and student count), and an additional $70 million more than last year for higher education, and $225 million to begin to reduce the unfunded liability for the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA). And we increased pay for state employees and private providers.
It was an exciting and unusual year for the Joint Budget Committee, of which I am a member. There were quite a few requests and a vigorous lobbying effort.
Bills making their way through the legislative process will determine the details of spending for transportation, education and the PERA retirement system.
In addition to catching up on those issues, we made a significant move to focus on school safety. An appropriation to the School Safety Resource Cash Fund of $35 million was the subject of an amendment that started in the House and survived in the Senate. Those new funds will focus on school safety officers and physical security modification to existing buildings.
And now on to other bills and issues. I’m co-chair of the Education Leadership Committee. The 27-member committee and newly formed four subcommittees are destined to move Colorado to a new and exciting vision and plan for our state’s learning systems of the future. Our subcommittees are focusing on elevating the teaching profession, designing a flexible education system, integrating community resources, and integration of the stages of learning from early childhood programs through career transitions.
I’m also working on two bills that will reduce our outrageous health insurance costs in western Colorado and a request for a task force to attach the disparity in tax revenues that will result from future resets of tax rates due to the Gallagher amendment adjustments.
Statewide and district primary elections are taking shape. With unaffiliated voters allowed to vote in either (but not both) party primaries, results could get interesting. Be sure and follow your local and state elections and vote.
“Under the Dome” appears on the second Tuesday of the month. State Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, is in his third term in the state Legislature representing House District 57, which includes Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.