DENVER - The moment lawmakers have been dreading for a year has arrived.
House members Monday began debating the 2010-11 budget, which is built on cuts to education and health care. The plan
also relies heavily on stimulus-bill money from Congress to keep even bigger cuts at bay for another year.
The House expects to spend most of the week on the budget. The Senate gets a turn next week, and the budget should be
on Gov. Bill Ritter's desk by mid-April. If past years are a guide, very few changes will be made in the next three
One of the biggest local consequences will be the $1.2 million cut Fort Lewis College is facing for the 2010-11 school
year. The community college system is facing an 8 percent cut. College tuition for Colorado residents could increase up
to 9 percent at all state schools.
The overall state budget is $18.2 billion, but the Legislature oversees just $7 billion, a slight increase from this
year's $6.7 billion. However, the demand for state services - prisons, schools and health care - has grown much faster,said Rep. Jack Pommer, chairman of the Joint Budget Committee, which wrote the budget.
The problem is when the state grows and our caseload grows, the budget normally grows," said Pommer, D-Boulder, during
a briefing for fellow lawmakers Monday.
But the recession kept tax revenues low this year. A slightly rosier economic forecast
March 19 predicted the Legislature might have a little more money than it had anticipated. But Pommer cautioned that
the situation easily could change for the worse, and he said he would oppose attempts to dodge any of the cuts his
Rep. Ellen Roberts questioned Joint Budget Committee members about cuts to Medicaid doctors and nursing homes.
If we don't have providers, you can't provide care," said Roberts, R-Durango.
But the money simply isn't there, said Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, who serves on the JBC.
We need to let people in our communities know the state's probably not going to have money for several years,"
Since the recession began, the JBC deliberately pushed off large, permanent cuts by raiding savings accounts and
relying on the federal stimulus bill. That means even if the economy improves, legislators will face difficult budgets
House Republicans said they will use this week to push for long-term reforms of the state government.
With the recession comes the opportunity to rethink, reshape and retool areas of government that are simply not
working and improve on aspects that are," said House Minority Leader Mike May.
May and other legislators want to look at a reorganization of the prison department and the college system, he
The House plans to take its first votes on the budget Wednesday night.