Balance Budget

A sparse crowd attended the Joint Budget Committee meeting March 16, 2020, amid fears of the new coronavirus. The committee plans to continue meeting even though the Colorado legislature temporarily shut down.

To address a $3 billion shortfall, Colorado lawmakers made a series of drastic spending cuts and moved close to finalizing a state budget battered by the coronavirus and the paralyzed economy.

The legislative budget committee on Thursday cut $448 million from K-12 education — a 10% cut compared to a year ago. The actual cut is closer to $577 million for school districts, in part from increased costs this year.

Earlier in the week, lawmakers slashed $493 million from the state’s colleges and universities, a total that represents 58% of the higher education budget.

In addition, the committee approved a 5% reduction — totaling $111 million — in the set-aside for state employee salaries may lead to furloughs, eliminating vacant positions or hiring freezes. The draft spending plan also is predicated on forthcoming legislation that will remove unspecified tax breaks to generate about $100 million in new revenue.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, a top Democratic budget writer, said the committee didn’t want to cut education, but given that it accounts for 40% of the state’s discretionary budget “we simply are incapable of balancing this budget without any changes.”

“We have held out just about as long as we could,” the Commerce City lawmaker said, “and we have made painful reductions in every department … with the bipartisan goal that we minimize as much as possible the impacts to K-12 education.”

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