Apr 6, 2021 - News

Colorado state budget package proposes 11% increase in spending

Source: Colorado FY21-22 budget narrative. Chart: John Frank/Axios
Source: Colorado FY21-22 budget narrative. Chart: John Frank/Axios

It's like the recession never happened for the state budget.

Driving the news: The $34.1 billion state budget package introduced Monday includes big money for one-time projects, the restoration of cuts from the prior year and savings for less prosperous years in the future.

  • Be smart: An unexpected surplus of cash is driving state spending to new heights — and the total doesn't include the $3.9 billion in new federal stimulus dollars lawmakers will spend in separate legislation.

Here's six numbers to know from the annual legislative spending package:

  • $34.1 billion. The total spending for the 2021-22 fiscal year that starts July 1, an 11% increase from the prior year.
  • $13.1 billion. The discretionary spending controlled by lawmakers from what's known as the General Fund. The other two-thirds of the budget comes from federal dollars and fees collected by the state.
  • $1.7 billion. The total left unspent in the budget as a reserve fund, roughly 13.5% of general fund spending. It's the largest reserve in more than two decades.
  • $800 million. The largest earmark in the budget is a state-level stimulus package being crafted by Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic lawmakers. A handful of the bills introduced so far help businesses retain workers and help particular industries.
  • $480 million. Colorado lawmakers have underfunded education for years, so this money for classrooms seeks to pay down the debt known as the negative factor.
  • $31 million. A forthcoming bill in the package proposes to spend big money to upgrade the state's public health infrastructure by adding more staff and sending money to local counties to handle the longterm effects of COVID-19.

What they're saying: "It's like having whiplash," said state Sen. Dominick Moreno, a Democrat and the chief budget writer. "We essential made all the reductions last year because we thought they were necessary and they weren't."

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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