Months of long but collegial labor by an evenly-split Joint Budget Committee have produced a 2016 budget - called the “long bill” - focused on adequately funding governing necessities, rather than generating flash.
While differences over details will be heard as the larger budget debate begins, tireless bipartisan work by committee members should help lessen the potential for conflict and encourage compromise on the budget building blocks.
Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) said he couldn’t recall another recent example of such cooperation. “The amazingly collaborative way committee members did their work on this reasonable and well-balanced budget shows that a split legislature can function effectively when leaders are willing to work together,” said Cadman. “If this same level of cooperation and compromise carries over to the next phase of debate, we’ll have a budget that isn’t perfect but will serve the state well.”
JBC Chairman Senator Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs) thanked Vice Chair Representative Millie Hamner (D-Dillon) and all committee members for the common sense and collaborative spirit they brought to the process. He credited the fresh perspectives brought by new committee members, along with the geographic diversity of the panel, with JBC’s ability to avoid partisan pitfalls and keep the big picture in mind.
“This reasoned and balanced approach to budgeting was possible because committee members put problem solving ahead of partisanship,” said Lambert. “That there were no wild spending sprees or parochial food fights meant we could focus more on adequately funding the fundamentals, like education, infrastructure, and other shared priorities.”
Lambert said he hoped that example of professionalism, cooperation and, collegiality would set the tone for the larger budget debate to come.
Key 2016 budget highlights include:
- Total gross general fund revenues largest in state history: $10.25 billion
- General Fund revenue growth: 4.9% in FY13/14; 7.6% in FY 14/15; 6.2% in FY 15/16
- TABOR refund to be returned to taxpayers: $69.7 million (FY14/15) $116.8
- million (FY15/16)
- Total transfers to State Education Fund: $563.3 million
- TABOR Emergency Reserve: $386.7 million
- Year-End General Fund Statutory Reserve: 6.5% in both FY14/15 and FY15/16
- Year-over-year general fund increase to K-12 is $216 million.
- JBC unanimously approved a 3.5% increase in K-12 funding.
- Medicaid increased by 12% (primarily from increased caseload due to Obamacare mandates and Medicaid expansion.)
- Year-over-year General Fund increase to higher education of $95 million.
- $22 million approved for need-based student aid.
- The Department of Higher Education received an overall 11% increase in funding over last year.
- All higher education institutions will receive a minimum 10% increase over last year.
- Increased state salaries by 1% and merit pay by 1%
- Increased non-Health Service Premium provider rates by 1.7% (The Governor’s request was 1%)
The long bill will be introduced on Friday and debated in the Senate throughout next week.