DENVER Despite their best efforts to hide it, Republicans and Democrats actually agree for the most part about how the state government should spend its money.
They agreed that schools should get as much per student as they did last year. They agreed that senior-citizen homeowners should get a property-tax break. And they agreed to not do across-the-board layoffs of state employees.
What you have before you reflects compromises on both sides, said Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, a member of the committee that wrote the budget. Weve got a good bill that does reflect the values that all of us share.
But representatives still found 44 reasons to pick a fight when the House debated the $19 billion state budget Wednesday afternoon and deep into the night.
Most of the fights involved small-dollar changes to detail items in the budget.
Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, offered one of the first of the 44 proposed amendments to the budget. Brown failed in an attempt to spend $13 million to fix state buildings from a trust fund for building maintenance.
This amendment actually will take this money and put it where it needs to be put. We need to maintain our buildings, Brown said.
The Joint Budget Committee had put $13 million in cash into the trust fund and designated it as part of the states constitutionally required reserve.
Browns move pitted him against Douglas Bruce, the now-jailed author of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. Bruces TABOR amendment required the state to maintain a reserve. He sued the state and lost last year for designating state buildings to serve as the TABOR reserve, instead of using cash.
Prisons had the worst night, as both Republicans and Democrats targeted them for cuts of 45 jobs in order to spend more money on a veterans court and full-day kindergarten. However, the cuts had received only preliminary approval as of Wednesday night.
A rapid drop in the prison population has taken state leaders by surprise, and Gov. John Hickenlooper has announced he will close the states newest prison before the bonds are even paid off.
The House is expected to complete the budget today and send it to the Senate for further debate next week.