Colorado uses surplus budget dollars to address equity
The General Assembly managed to break the legislative logjam on longstanding equity issues this year thanks to one factor.
- A lot of money.
What happened: A handful of laws signed by Gov. Jared Polis this week didn't make progress in prior legislative sessions because of the associated costs.
But this year, an unexpected windfall in tax revenue — combined with a massive infusion of federal dollars — allowed the Democratic majority to address what they see as discriminatory policies. The new laws:
- Forgive $10 million in outstanding court fees and abolish more than a dozen charges levied in juvenile criminal cases.
- Prohibit the revocation of driver's licenses for certain criminal convictions, expired registrations and outstanding warrants.
- End qualified immunity for Colorado State Patrol troopers that protected them from civil lawsuits.
By the numbers: Together, the three bills represent about $20 million in lost revenue for the state, from the court fees and others like driver’s license reinstatement fees.
- The state budget shifted marijuana tax revenues and other discretionary dollars to cover the cost of programs that operated from those fees.
What they're saying: "I joined the [Joint Budget Committee] so I could move the needle on bills I could not move without the JBC," State Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) told Axios. "Where funding is used as an excuse … I was able to get that funded elsewhere."
Other new laws aimed at equity signed recently include $4 million to supply diapers to low-income mothers and $4.2 million to provide birth control and reproductive care to immigrants who don't qualify for Medicaid.
Editor's note: Colorado's General Assembly approved more than 500 bills this year. In this occasional Capitol Impact series, we unpack what it means for you and how it happened.
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