DENVER - A month of argument and 12 hours of debate on the Senate floor changed nothing for a controversial budget bill, which the state Senate approved on a party line 21-14 vote Tuesday.
From the beginning, the lines were clear on the so-called 6 percent law. Democrats want to repeal the 1991 act, saying it will prevent the state from recovering after the recession. The law sets a 6 percent yearly growth cap on the biggest part of the state budget.
But on March 2, the GOP staged an unsuccessful filibuster against the bill that kept senators at their desks until 2 a.m.
Republicans want to keep the cap for two reasons. Currently, money above the cap goes to highways, a GOP favorite. Republicans also say only voters can repeal the cap.
"The reality is, we are messing with the Constitution of the state of Colorado today," said Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs.
Republicans cited a 1994 opinion by the Legislature's lawyers that only the voters could make the change. However, the state Supreme Court on Monday signaled otherwise.
In an unrelated case, the justices said they will give wide latitude to the Legislature in any case that deals with the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, said both conservative and liberal attorneys who read Monday's decision.
The sponsor of Senate Bill 228, Sen. John Morse, said the 6 percent law constricts the Legislature's power and cuts necessary state programs every time there's a recession. That's because the 6 percent growth is calculated off the last year's total, and in a bad year like this one, the next year's base gets ratcheted down.
"We haven't been spending the money we need to spend on the developmentally disabled, on the mentally ill, on higher education, on roads. All true," said Morse, D-Colorado Springs.
The bill is now headed to the House.