Budget passes despite Dems’ misgivings

DENVER — The GOP-controlled Colorado House gave its blessing to the 2011-12 state budget Thursday.

And while Democrats who control the Senate earlier in the week approved concessions to appease House Republicans, numerous House Democrats on Thursday couldn’t bring themselves to vote for next year’s $18 billion spending plan.

Nearly half of the 32 Democrats in the 65-member House said they couldn’t support a budget that cut K–12 education by $250 million while giving tax breaks to businesses and raising health care premiums on poor children.

“When we give $9 million to the wealthiest corporation in the world … and we’re cutting our schools $250 million, it’s unconscionable for me to vote for this budget,” said Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, referring to Wal-Mart’s vendor fee. “To give away 98.8 percent of the vendor fee to large corporations when they speak out of one side of their mouth and say, ‘Education is important,’ and they speak out of the other side and say, ‘Yeah, but we need this extra money,’ we cannot be 50th in the nation for school funding.”

The cuts to education were part of a budget deal hammered out between Senate Democrats and House Republicans.

The deal, which House Democrats weren’t a party to, also called for increasing premiums on a state health plan for children of indigent families, continuing a sales tax on tobacco products and transferring millions from cash funds, including severance tax dollars that normally go to local governments.

“It was important to the House GOP, Governor Hickenlooper and the state Senate that we fight to create jobs here in Colorado,” said House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch. “These were measures that were supported by small businesses across the state.”

A committee is to work out minor differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget. Then a final vote will be cast by the two chambers.


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