Nov 2, 2023 - News

What to know about Gov. Jared Polis' new budget plan

Photo illustration of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis with lines radiating from him.

Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios; Photo: Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Colorado is poised to fully fund its education system next year for the first time since 2010.

Driving the news: Gov. Jared Polis introduced a roughly $38 billion annual spending plan Wednesday that includes a $564 million infusion for schools, meeting the requirements of a new state law to eliminate the long-standing debt known as the negative factor.

What he's saying: "We know [education] is the most important investment in our future as a state," Polis said at a briefing. "We've been working toward this goal for several years."

Of note: Even though the state will meet its constitutional education spending obligations, it won't negate the $10 billion shortfall to education over the last 15 years, the Colorado Education Association noted in response to the proposal.

The big picture: The spending plan for the 2024-25 fiscal year, which begins July 1, is bare-bones compared to prior years when federal stimulus money inflated the budget.

  • The roughly 7% growth in discretionary spending from the $16 billion general fund is largely consumed by inflationary cost increases and population growth.

Between the lines: If voters approve propositions HH and II in Tuesday's election, that would allow the state to spend more money in coming years, loosening the purse strings to allow new programs and the expansion of preschool education, respectively.

By the numbers: Other new spending items include:

  • 3% pay raise for state employees.
  • 2% cap on in-state tuition increases at public schools.
  • $2 million to fulfill the governor's executive order transitioning state lawn and maintenance equipment to electric power.
  • $1 million more to protect vulnerable communities against violence, such as synagogues and mosques.
  • $30 million to continue a pandemic-era rent assistance program.

The other side: Republican leaders who represent the minority of the state Legislature applauded full funding for education but called for broader spending cuts and using state reserves to provide property tax relief.

Be smart: The governor's budget — due Nov. 1 every year — is merely the starting point for negotiations. The Legislature is tasked with crafting the next spending plan and will begin discussions later this month.


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