Polis announces budget proposal as state prepares for end of federal pandemic funds



(The Center Square) – Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis released his budget proposal for the state’s next fiscal year while preparing for the end of the flow of federal pandemic money.

Polis fulfilled a statutory requirement of submitting his budget proposal for fiscal year 2024-25 on Wednesday. The general fund budget request is $18.4 billion, a 6% increase from the 2023-24 final budget. The budget maintains a reserve of 15% and projects a growth in state spending of 6.5% above last year’s expenditures.

“It is nice to see the Governor can add, I would like to see if he can subtract,” House Minority Leader Mike Lynch, R-Wellington, said in a statement. “… We look forward to the opportunity to work with Governor Polis on finding real solutions that benefit all Coloradans.”

Polis highlighted funding for education, housing, safety, health care and renewable energy in next year’s budget, the second budget of his second term as governor.

“This comprehensive budget plan reflects the voices of Coloradans with important investments to create more housing now, make Colorado one of the 10 safest states, save people money on healthcare, invest in our workforce, and achieve our nation-leading renewable energy goals while maintaining responsible reserves for a rainy day,” the governor said in a statement.

The 138-page budget letter also noted the loss of $148 million in American Rescue Plan Act revenue as the federal pandemic funding program winds down.

“This whole-of-government approach seeks to fully spend every penny of the $3.8 billion Colorado received by prioritizing investments in proven programs with direct impact to Coloradans,” Polis’s budget letter stated. “The Executive Branch also intends to work closely with the Joint Budget Committee this year on other solutions to ensure that we spend every dollar of ARPA without reversions to the federal government.”

The budget calls for spending $40.8 million in ARPA funds and an additional $10 million for the Joint Budget Committee to determine the best one-time uses for strategic projects. One of the largest expenditures of ARPA funds would be $7.5 million for migrant support in emergency rental assistance.

The budget letter stated the executive branch is working with state agencies to identify ARPA funds that could be pulled back from programs not likely to fully expend the funds.

“This budget request has identified more than $41 million in recapture opportunities,” the letter stated. “Of this amount, this budget assumes that roughly $22.4 million of those recaptured dollars can be reinvested and offset General Fund requests elsewhere in the budget.”

Polis calls for fully funding public schools at a level consistent with Amendment 23, approved by voters to increase student funding annually by the inflation rate, by “buying down” the budget stabilization factor.

“After years of Republican demands that we fully fund students – instead of growing state government – we are glad to see Governor Polis chose to follow our leadership and prioritize funding for students and teachers,” Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, said in a statement. “It is critically important that the budget proposal acknowledges that charter school students are public school students and deserve equal funding support.”

Polis proposes increasing funding per student by $750, or 6.6%, to $11,317 in the budget. The overall total education increase is $564.1 million.

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