Mar 27, 2024 - Politics

What's inside Colorado's $41B budget bill for fiscal year 2024-25

Illustration of a megaphone made out of the dome of the Colorado State Capitol.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Colorado lawmakers are preparing to vote Thursday on a $40.6 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year that includes a boost for education, state employees and housing.

Why it matters: The annual budget package is the most important legislation each term, and this year's edition came with as much consternation as it did new spending.

Follow the money: Buoyed by $1 billion in new discretionary dollars and the final pot of federal pandemic-related stimulus money, legislative budget writers set aside $49 million to spur affordable housing projects, $19 million to add workers in industries with shortages and hire 50 new public defenders to address a severe workload gap.

What's inside: Other elements in the spending package that would take effect July 1 include:

  • A $420 increase in per-pupil spending, a key legislative priority that brings the individual total to $8,496.
  • $229 million to increase state employee pay 3% across the board and add 3.7% bonuses for longevity, amounting to the largest increase in at least a decade.
  • A 3% tuition increase for Colorado residents at public colleges and universities and a 4% hike for out-of-state students.
  • $56 million to cover a shortfall in the Proposition FF program to provide free lunches to all students

Catch up quick: The powerful budget committee began drafting the state budget in November, after hearing recommendations from the governor, but they had to backtrack this month after a new forecast showed a roughly $170 million shortfall in revenue expectations.

  • Lawmakers scrambled to find money, pulling from other accounts, and deploying a number of accounting tricks, such as reclassifying how money from gaming and cigarette taxes is counted to allow $32 million more spending.
  • The relaxed rules around spending the final $197 million in ARPA dollars also helped.

What they're saying: "Everyone's turning over every single stone we can," state Rep. Rick Taggart, a Republican budget writer from Grand Junction, told Colorado Politics.

  • "Unfortunately, we won't be able to fund everything. This is not a year when you can depend on your priorities getting fully funded."
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