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Education, transportation among priorities in budget process

Posted: 6:20 PM, Apr 08, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-08 20:37:23-04

COLORADO- It’s a constitutional requirement for state lawmakers to come up with a balanced budget every year.

This year, members of the house and senate are working to figure out the best places to place the money with more than $30 billion in the state’s budget.

“The fact is that there are unlimited requests in our state budget,’ said Senator Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs), “and we have to make tough choices.”

In the Senate, Republicans wanted to see more money allocated towards transportation- which they ultimately passed an amendment passing along more money to transportation.

When the budget made its way to the house, the amendment was changed.

As of the final passage of the budget on Friday, $300 million will go towards transportation.

Democrats have outlined many priorities this year, including increased education funding.

Currently, the budget has a placeholder for more than $180 million to fund one of Governor Jared Polis’ campaign promises of full-day kindergarten.

However, the legislature still needs to pass a bill in order for the funding to be official.

Something Phyllis Robinette, a teacher in Lewis-Palmer school district believes would help out her district immensely.

“That [full day kindergarten] might free up a little bit of money that could go into lowering class sizes and hiring more staff, and hiring quality staff with higher salaries,” said Robinette, who serves as the President to the Pikes Peak Teachers Union.

Although education funding is increasing, teacher’s unions across the state say more needs to be done.

In a statement released Friday, the Colorado Education Association (CEA) said they would like to see lawmakers add $23 million more to the budget stabilization factor buy-down.

Transportation and education aren’t the only priorities for state lawmakers this year.

Representatives in the house debated late into the night Thursday discussing priorities of the budget, which included funding for the state’s Civil Rights Commission.

Still, many Republicans in the House voted against that version of the budget, including Rep. Terri Carver (R- Colorado Springs).

“The money for transportation is simply inadequate,” said Carver, “to only have 300 million, which I know sounds like a lot of money, but this is in a state budget of $32 billion.”

With the House and Senate versions of the bill coming out different, the Joint Budget Committee will now reconvene as a conference committee and figure out another solution.

The report from the committee will need approval from the house and senate, from there it goes to Governor Polis’ desk.