Governor Polis Signs Bipartisan Budget, Paving Way for Colorado Comeback
DENVER – Today, Governor Jared Polis signed SB21-205, the FY 2021-2022 Long Appropriations Bill. Gov. Polis also signed SB21-226, Increase The General Fund Reserve. Click here to view the Governor’s Long Bill Transmittal Letter.
“Colorado is ready to power the comeback, and this year’s budget paves the way for that important work. From shovel-ready infrastructure projects and investments in our children’s future to supporting for our workforce, this budget is our best one yet,” said Governor Polis. “And we’re not just making critical investments that will help our state today, but we’re laying the groundwork of fiscal responsibility that ensures Colorado is prepared for the next crisis with a record level of reserves. I’m proud to sign this historic legislation and appreciate the bipartisan efforts of every legislator that worked to make this possible.”
With this budget, the Governor and lawmakers focused on three main buckets: restoring reductions, bolstering the reserves to historic levels, and economic stimulus to get Colorado’s economy back on track.
Colorado’s $35.9 billion budget funds core state services, such as education, corrections, health care and human services. The state’s $13.1 billion General Fund will benefit from an historic 13.4% reserve. Last year, budget forecasts estimated the state would face a significant revenue decline, leading lawmakers to enact historic reductions while still prioritizing critical services and education. With the economy and state revenues recovering faster than anticipated, the budget returns funding to pre-pandemic levels while responsibly setting aside historic reserves for the future.
“After a year defined by loss and uncertainty, I am exceedingly proud of what the Joint Budget Committee was able to accomplish on behalf of Colorado – passing a budget that not only uplifts the hardest-hit Coloradans, but boldly invests in core community pillars,” said Joint Budget Committee Chair, Senator Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City. “Colorado, like the rest of the world, has been through so much during this pandemic, so it is a relief to finally see the storm breaking. I’m confident that the funding package being signed today will ensure Colorado has an equitable recovery and a resilient future.”
“Today’s signing represents the culmination of months of hard and careful work to craft a budget that will chart an equitable and robust recovery for Colorado,” said JBC Vice Chair Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon. “I’m grateful to my JBC colleagues, the governor, and especially our tireless staff, who have all teamed up to ensure we could make these historic investments in our kids and educators, our small businesses, and hardworking families across the state.”
“Budgets are moral documents – they show what we as a community value and prioritize – and this year, Colorado’s budget underscores not only the adversity we have overcome as a state, but the ongoing commitment we have to building back stronger,” said Joint Budget Committee member Senator Chris Hansen, D-Denver. “From education to critical infrastructure, this year’s budget makes massive strides in responding to urgent needs of Colorado as well as promoting a rapid recovery.”
“This year’s budget will help Colorado recover faster and build back stronger from the pandemic by funding the $800 million Colorado Comeback state stimulus plan, investing in mental and behavioral health, and putting nearly $1 billion into K-12 and higher education,” said JBC Member Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver. “This budget focuses on equity, boosting services and opportunities for the Coloradans who have been hit the hardest in order to forge a just and inclusive recovery.”
“Thanks to the majority party members and leadership of the JBC for a bipartisan and transparent process,” said JBC Member Bob Rankin. “And to the dedicated and talented JBC staff for two years of hard work.”
Creating Jobs, Getting Colorado Back on Track, and Building Back Stronger
- $800 Million State Stimulus: The budget sets aside $800 million for the Colorado Recovery Plan, which will create jobs and boost the Colorado Comeback.
- Creating Jobs Through Investing in Capital Construction Projects: The bill tackles a substantial portion of the state’s capital project backlog by nearly doubling the long bill appropriation for capital construction, creating jobs through creating, maintaining and improving capital construction projects. The bill includes $217.4 million for the Capital Construction Fund, initiating shovel-ready projects at institutions of higher education and across state government.
- Building the Reserve and a New Rainy Day Fund: This budget sets aside the largest reserve on record, 13.4% of General Fund, to protect the State from unpredictable revenue swings as we recover from this global pandemic and economic shock, and help protect against future reductions to school funding, increases in fees, and cuts to our state safety-net in the next few years. History warns us that a recession will impact multiple budget years, and therefore saving for the future and increasing reserves will help us weather the longer-term impacts of the economic downturn.
- Expanding Job and Skills Training Initiatives: The budget prioritizes workforce and training opportunities through a variety of programs including restoring CDHE’s Colorado First Customized Job Training program, DOC’s Transitional Work Opportunity program, and DHS’ Colorado Works Subsidized Training and Employment Program.
- Investing in IT Infrastructure & Transportation: This budget package makes significant investments in IT infrastructure including funding for the Office of eHealth Innovation’s Rural Connectivity project, updates to the states unemployment insurance system, and numerous investments in higher education equipment and technology to support increased virtual learning opportunities. In addition, with $124 million set aside for transportation, the budget sets Colorado on a path to address CDOT’s $9 billion project backlog.
- Boosting State’s Wildfire Response: After a historic wildfire season and with another one on the way, the budget appropriates $26.2 million for firefighting contracts, aircraft, personnel and state assistance for local response efforts.
Putting Students, Teachers, and Parents First
- Restores K-12 Funding, Cuts Budget Stabilization Factor Nearly in Half: The FY21-22 Long Bill brings the budget stabilization factor back to its pre-pandemic level of $572 million by increasing K-12 education funding by over $480 million.
- Resumes and Accelerates State Support for Institutions of Higher Ed: After being forced to nearly eliminate state support for institutions of higher education, lawmakers boosted funding in this year’s budget by $494 million to restore the prior year’s reduction. The bill also allocates an additional $100 million to be used for recruitment and retention including additional financial support for first generation, underrepresented minority, and Pell-eligible students.
- Increased Resources for Students: This budget prioritizes accessible teaching and learning resources for students to succeed including $3 million for state grants to public libraries and over $1 million to CDHE’s Open Educational Resources program which provides grants to institutions to develop educational programs using 100 percent publicly available teaching materials. The budget also appropriates $7.2 million to restore K-12 education grant programs including the Behavioral Healthcare Professionals Grant Program, the K-5 Social and Emotional Grant Program, the Ninth Grade Success Program, the School Leadership Success program, the AP Exam Fee Grant program and the Automatic Enrollment in Advanced Courses program.
- Invests $160 Million in School Infrastructure (BEST) and an additional $100 Million for the State Education Fund (SEF): After nearly eliminating funding last year for the Building Excellent Schools Today grant initiative, lawmakers this year will invest $160 million to construct, renovate, or maintain school facilities and structures. The SEF funds teacher recruitment, full-day kindergarten, early literacy programs, and helps finance public school systems across Colorado.
- Prioritizes the Teacher Recruitment Education and Preparation program: The JBC set aside $13.4 million for a teacher recruitment toolkit to be established in collaboration with the departments of education and higher education. The set aside includes restorations to CDE’s Quality Teacher Recruitment program and CDHE’s Educator Loan Forgiveness program. In addition, the budget restores CDHE’s Teacher Mentor Grants Program and the Rural Teacher Recruitment, Retention, and Professional Development program.
Supporting Colorado’s Most Vulnerable
- Supporting Hospitals that Treat Uninsured Patients: The bill provides $48.2 million for hospitals that serve a higher share of low-income or uninsured patients. This funding draws down $27 million in federal funds. The funding supports several rural hospitals.
- Ensuring Coloradans Have Access to the Care They Need: With access to health care essential for every Coloradan, the budget affirms the state’s commitment to Health First Colorado, the state’s Medicaid program. It provides $460.1 million for medical care and long-term services such as nursing homes and community-based services. The funds pay nursing home care, senior dental programs, behavioral health, and vaccine administration.
- Addressing Health Disparities: The budget helps Colorado build back stronger by providing over $5 million to combat racial and income-based health disparities that are hurting Colorado communities.
- Expanding Access to Mental and Behavioral Health: The bill provides nearly $60 million in additional funding to behavioral health programs, providing critical funding for prevention, treatment, and recovery services, wrap-around services for children in crisis, and investments in IT systems to streamline eligibility and claims processing.
- Veterans: The budget provides $500,000 in Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to provide grants to enhance workforce center services for veterans, an increase of $200,000 over last year. The Colorado Recovery Act will provide $30 million for a start up loan fund, which will support veteran-owned small businesses. The budget includes $59.4 million for the veteran community living centers, and $425,000 for National Guard tuition assistance.
- Addressing the IDD Waitlist: The JBC allocated $22 million to protect essential Medicaid benefits including $15.5 million to the Adult Comprehensive Waiver to fund 667 spots on the comprehensive waiver waitlist for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
View today’s bill signing of SB21-205 and SB21-226.