Nov 1, 2021 - Politics
Polis emphasizes homelessness and rising crime in budget plan
Gov. Jared Polis. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz//The Denver Post via Getty Images
Gov. Jared Polis. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz//The Denver Post via Getty Images

More money to address rising crime, combat homelessness and boost education tops Gov. Jared Polis' annual budget wish list.

Driving the news: The roughly $40 billion proposal released Monday includes an 8% increase in discretionary spending from the general fund, sets aside millions for taxpayer refunds and keeps $2 billion unspent as a 15% reserve.

Why it matters: The infusion of one-time federal stimulus dollars, as well as excess state revenue, means lawmakers have billions to allocate — upwards of 10 times the discretionary spending for a typical year, budget writers say.

Between the lines: Polis' budget document is particularly colored by politics this year because it covers the final year of his first term in the governor's office.

  • Moreover, he prioritized spending on areas he's overlooked in prior years and those that drew the loudest criticism from Republicans.

By the numbers: Polis sprinkled the money across all areas of the budget, but the state intervention to address rising crime and homelessness at the local level stood out.

  • $113 million would go toward public safety programs that the governor said would "make a real dent in reducing crime."
  • $200 million would help augment local programs to address homelessness, including drug treatment programs.

In addition, Polis will put $150 million toward the state's debt to school districts — known as the negative factor — and increase per pupil spending by $526 to its highest-ever level.

What he's saying: Polis emphasized the historic extra money available and said the "budget represents Colorado's next chapter."

Be smart: The governor's budget is just a proposal. Colorado legislators control the purse strings and write the annual spending plan each year, often omitting significant spending desired by the governor.

The bottom line: But lawmakers agree this is a consequential moment. "This will be one of the most impactful budget years in the history of the state," said state Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, a budget writer.

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