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Governor Jared Polis signed SB21-205, on Monday afternoon, the FY 2021-2022 Long Appropriations Bill, announcing the bipartisan approval of the budget as a step that is “paving the way for Colorado’s comeback”.

Governor Jared Polis. Photo courtesy of WBUR

“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 support for our workforce, this budget is our best one yet,” said Governor Polis. “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.”

The making of a state budget is actually a multi-year effort. This budget work began nearly two years ago, with joining planning sessions and out-state input. With this budget, the Governor and Colorado lawmakers have focused on three main buckets: restoring reductions made during the COVID-19 pandemic, bolstering the reserves to historic levels, and economic stimulus to get Colorado’s economy back on track.

The Colorado logo introduced in 2019. (Photo by Daniel Brenner/Special to the Denver Post)

Colorado’s $35.9 billion budget funds core state services including education, corrections, health care, and human services. The state’s $13.1 billion General Fund will benefit from a historic 13.4 percent 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. But 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 (JBC) 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.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

Major aspects of the 2021-2022 budget include:

  • $800 Million State Stimulus: The budget sets aside $800 million for the Colorado Recovery Plan, which will create jobs and boost the Colorado Comeback.

  • Tackles a substantial portion of the state’s capital project backlog; nearly doubling the long bill appropriation for capital construction.

  • Building the Reserve and a New Rainy Day Fund: sets aside the largest reserve on record, 13.4 percent of General Fund, to protect the State from unpredictable revenue swings.

  • Expanding Job and Skills Training Initiatives: The budget prioritizes workforce and training opportunities through a variety of programs.

  • 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. 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.

  • 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 Higher Education: funding $494 million to restore the prior year’s reduction and allocates an additional $100 million to be used for recruitment and retention including additional financial support for first generation, underrepresented minority, and Pell Grant -eligible students.

  • Increased Resources for Students: $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,$7.2 million to restore K-12 education grant programs.

  • Invests $160 Million in School Infrastructure (BEST), an additional $100 Million for the State Education Fund (SEF) and $160 million to construct, renovate, or maintain school facilities and structures and funds teacher recruitment, full-day kindergarten, early literacy programs.

  • Prioritizes the Teacher Recruitment Education and Preparation program: The JBC set aside $13.4 million for a teacher recruitment toolkit.

  • Supporting Hospitals that Treat Uninsured Patients: provides $48.2 million for hospitals that serve a higher share of low-income or uninsured patients.

  • Affirms the state’s commitment to Health First Colorado, the state’s Medicaid program, providing $460.1 million for medical care and long-term services such as nursing homes and community-based services.

  • Provides $5 million to combat racial and income-based health disparities.

  • Provides nearly $60 million in additional funding to mental health behavioral health programs.

  • Veterans: The budget provides $500,000 in Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to provide grants to enhance workforce center services for veterans, provides $30 million for a start-up loan fund supporting veteran-owned small businesses, $59.4 million for the veteran community living centers, and $425,000 for National Guard tuition assistance.

  • Allocates $22 million to protect essential Medicaid benefits.

View Monday’s bill signing of SB21-205

View Gov. Polis signing of SB21-226, that increases the General Fund Reserve here.