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Colorado Senate approves $40.6B budget, up 3.7% from last year

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(The Center Square) – The Colorado Senate on Friday approved a $40.6 billion budget – which is 3.7% larger than last year – and will now go before a conference committee for a review of amendments from both chambers.

Commonly called “the long bill,” House Bill 24-1430 provides funds for the executive, legislative and judicial departments in state government along with money for 23 state agencies.

“Of all the budgets that I have proudly helped to craft over the years, this one will stand out in my memory years from now,” Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, who’s Joint Budget Committee vice chair, said in a statement. “I am pleased to see that we have reached this milestone in the process. Every budget-making process has its challenges, and this one certainly has been no exception. But the hard work has been worthwhile: we eliminated the budget stabilization factor that we inflicted upon our schools a decade ago; and now K-12 is fully funded.”

The 47-page education budget totals $7.4 billion. The budget stabilization factor restricted funding for elementary and secondary education for more than a decade, according to a media release from Senate Democrats. Funding for public schools will increase by more than $500 million, increasing annual per-pupil spending by $736 to $11,406.

The budget includes an appropriation of $24 million from the State Education Fund to help school districts throughout the state with the influx of new migrant students. The budget also increases $3.3 million for student instruction to become proficient in English. The budget for special education students increases 10.2%, or $34.7 million, to bring the total funding to $375.5 million.

The 74-page human services budget is $2.5 billion and the 30-page health care policy/financing budget is $15.9 billion.

Community health care providers will receive a 2% rate increase, and an additional $198 million will be allocated for provider rate increases following the Medicaid Provider Rate Review Advisory Committee recommendation. The increases will go to Medicaid providers, preschool and child care providers, social services providers, independent living centers, local public health agencies, services in the Department of Corrections, and other private and nonprofit organizations.

Funding for public defenders will increase 9%, or $11.5 million, compared to last year and go toward hiring 50 new attorneys, 42 support staff and 11 social workers. An additional $8 million is budgeted for grants to reduce and prevent auto theft.

“This year’s bipartisan budget is a reflection of our Colorado values of opportunity and responsibility,” Sen. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, and a member of the Joint Budget Committee, said in a statement. “The investments included in this budget will address our workforce shortages, expand access to behavioral health resources, support public schools, and make our communities safer.”

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