Colorado Governor Polis Releases State Budget Proposal
Gov. Polis Pushes for Key Investments to Restore Major Reductions, Stimulate the Economy & Help Colorado Build Back Stronger, and Save for Colorado’s Future
DENVER – Governor Jared Polis released his budget proposal for FY 2021-22, concurrently submitting his budget proposal to the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) of the General Assembly. Gov. Polis budget makes great strides in confronting Colorado’s most immediate challenges while making critical investments for the future.
“2020 has been a challenging year and the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed our vulnerabilities, which is why this budget isn’t just about getting back to where we used to be. It’s about taking this time of turmoil to utilize the lessons learned and boldly forging a path forward that positions our state for the future by making key strategic investments to ensure we build back stronger, more inclusive and resilient. This fiscally responsible proposal builds up our reserves for future years, ” said Governor Polis. “This budget lays the foundation to build a stronger Colorado through key investments in our economic recovery, saving people money on health care, expanding access to education, building climate resiliency and expanding renewable energy to enhance our way of life and to build a Colorado for all where everyone can thrive.”
This budget includes three key elements that will help boost Colorado’s economy and make critical investments in the state’s future:
- Restoring major reductions made to key areas in FY 2020-21 and ensuring essential services across government
- Economic stimulus that will bridge the gap to recovery and help Colorado build back stronger
- Saving for the future
Restoring Major Reductions and Ensuring Essential Services
- Restores and increases per pupil funding for education by $902 and returns the Budget Stabilization Factor to the FY 2019-20 level of $572M, leaving the funding gap at a nearly 11-year low of 6.6%
- Restores funding for higher education institutions to FY 2019-20 level and maintains financial aid for students who need it
- Restores funding for the PERA direct distribution to protect pensions for public servants
- Funds caseload needs in Medicaid and human services
- Invests in high need capital projects
- The State is using $577 million in available State and Federal funds for mass testing, personal protective equipment, support for local public health agencies, contact tracing, and improved patient care capacity.
- $179 million to repay emergency spending from the State Emergency Reserve
- Another $200 million set aside in Budget for additional COVID-19 response costs in 2021
- This budget recommends $78 million to improve the state’s ability to prevent, respond to, and recover from wildfires that are driven by a changing climate and increased population.
Economic Stimulus that will help Colorado Recover Faster and Build Back Stronger
- In total, this package includes $1.3 billion to help support local businesses, put Coloradans back to work and invest in the state’s future. These are targeted proposals with a high economic impact and strategic investments to help Colorado recover stronger and more quickly.
- Colorado is distributing one-time direct payments of $375 to 435,000 hardworking Coloradans that have low and mid income. Those payments will go out in early December.
- The Governor is also proposing $105 million in tax relief and direct aid for restaurants, bars, and other small businesses hit by capacity restrictions.
- $50 million for housing eviction prevention and direct benefits for individuals who are not eligible for other assistance
- $50 million in support to child care providers to enable the workforce to return to work
- More than $30 million in grants and technical assistance for communities that have difficulty accessing capital, and a dedicated strategic fund in the minority business office
- $4 million in grants for local law enforcement purchasing body cams
- $1 million to help Colorado identify and address health disparities
- $220 million to create create jobs by investing in shovel ready public works and infrastructure projects
- $160 million to invest in broadband infrastructure to enable business, education and health care
- $140 million to invest in our workforce and incentivize business growth in Colorado
- $200 million placeholder for one-time investments/stimulus priorities identified by the legislature
Saving for Colorado’s Future
- General Fund reserves from 2.86% to 10% for FY 2021-22
- Carries forward $1.26 billion to reduce the forecasted deficit in FY 2022-23 and protect against future uncertainty
- Proposes a responsible savings package of $422 million ($272 million General Fund).
In addition to these three key elements, the Governor’s budget also outlines other critical investments the state is proposing.
Furthering the Commitment to Build a Colorado for All
- $30 million in FY 2020-21 in grants to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to improve access to startup capital for historically underserved entrepreneurs through the Colorado Startup Loan Fund.
- $4 million to the Minority Business Office to increase programming and create a Strategic Fund for direct grants, and $1 million to address health inequities among Medicaid members.
- Building on the historic legislation passed this year in SB 20-217, this budget invests $3.7 million to expand the use of body cameras for local jurisdictions.
Bolstering Education and Early Childhood Education
- The impacts of the pandemic have hit those without a four-year degree the hardest. This budget request protects funding for state-funded financial aid ($215.6 million) and restores critical operating funds to our public institutions of higher education ($852.0 million) while seeking to ensure that tuition increases are capped at 3% statewide during this challenging time for Colorado students
- This budget invests $10 million in innovation and transformation to improve operational efficiency at Colorado colleges and universities as they adapt to the unique challenges of the pandemic
Increasing Access to Health Care & Behavioral Health
- The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the inequalities in America’s health care system and the Polis administration remains committed to saving people money on health care.
- The Reinsurance Program continues to deliver significant savings for Coloradans buying individual health insurance. For 2021, the Reinsurance Program will save consumers in the individual market across Colorado an average of 20.8% over what premiums would have been without the program, and up to 38% on the Western Slope and in southwest Colorado
- Increased funding for telehealth services and ease of accessibility of behavioral health services, and to integrate behavioral health programs into existing infrastructure to provide significant efficiencies
- $100 million to provide Coloradans critical services to combat substance use disorders and opioid addiction beginning January 2021
Investing in Cleaner Air & Fire Prevention and Mitigation to Address Climate Change
- Gov. Polis Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap lays out concrete, sector-specific pathways to make progress towards science-based emission reductions targets
- $40 million for clean energy finance programs to grow the economy, improve air quality, and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and $5 million for the Clean Energy Challenge for local governments to invest in green infrastructure. This solution leverages additional dollars in partnership with OEDIT and CEO as the State focuses on Renewable and Clean energy projects which drive community and economic development
- This budget includes a request to create an innovative new Climate Resilience Office at the Department of Agriculture as well as new investments in programs which ensure an equitable and just transition from a coal based economy
- Enhancing State Park Capacity: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration helped us out of the Great Depression and left us legacies such as Red Rocks.