Mar 28, 2023 - Politics

What's inside Colorado's $38.5B state budget plan

Data: Joint Budget Committee; Chart: John Frank/Axios

Colorado lawmakers put forward a $38.5 billion state budget package Monday that includes discretionary spending increases, tuition hikes and millions more for housing projects.

Why it matters: The annual spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is based on a more rosy fiscal forecast from the governor's office but comes at a precarious economic moment.

The big picture: The budget package crafted by the Democratic majority and Gov. Jared Polis represents a roughly 6% increase in state spending compared with the current year and includes millions to implement new initiatives and cover the cost of lawmakers' favorite programs.

  • The general fund reached $16.7 billion in discretionary annual spending, a 9% increase from the current budget.

Zoom in: Here are six things to know about the proposed spending plan.

  1. Democrats left a placeholder totaling $221 million for unspecified housing-related legislation, including proposals to build more affordable housing and provide temporary property tax relief.
  2. Colorado universities and colleges could boost tuition up to 5% next year, a significant increase after lawmakers capped increases at 2% a year ago. Also, the University of Northern Colorado gets an exemption to allow a 6% increase.
  3. Lawmakers backed the governor's request to add more money for crime fighting, but didn't give him everything. A $5 million set-aside for an auto theft prevention effort is far less than the $12.6 million Polis wanted.
  4. The rollout of the state's new preschool program is becoming more costly. To get providers to join the program, the state wants to offer $2.5 million in bonuses.
  5. One big-ticket item is a second helicopter to fight wildfires, a $26 million line item. The state purchased its first Firehawk two years ago for roughly $24 million.
  6. The budget plan includes $15 million for the creation of an Office of School Safety to increase the state's focus on the issue and consolidate efforts across departments.

What's next: The state Senate will make changes and vote on the budget package this week before sending it to the House.

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