Governor signs spending plan of $18 billion

DENVER — Gov. John Hickenlooper signed next year’s $18 billion spending plan Friday even though it technically isn’t in balance.

But the governor said he had full confidence that would happen before the Legislature ends this year’s session Wednesday.

The Legislature still needs to pass four measures that would free the final $70 million needed to balance the budget, as is required by law.

“I am signing Senate Bill 11-209 with the full confidence that the General Assembly will pass these four critical pieces of legislation in the remaining … days of the session,” Hickenlooper said in a letter to lawmakers notifying them of the signing. “However, if these bills do not pass, my plan will be to restrict appropriations in the budget.”

The governor did use his line-item veto powers on some portions of the budget, all of which were footnotes directing several state agencies to do various things.

Like his last two predecessors, Hickenlooper said those footnotes were a violation of separation-of-powers laws in the Colorado Constitution.

The governor also objected to the Legislature’s inclusion of specific, full-time-employee counts for various state agencies, saying it “constitutes interference with the inherent prerogative of the executive branch” to decide staffing levels.

Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, said those full-time-employee limits are intended to help keep government from growing too large.

“The governor ignoring this important component of the budget moves us in the wrong direction because taxpayers bear the burden of increased bureaucracy,” said Becker, a member of the Joint Budget Committee, which writes the budget.

The governor said having such language in the budget limits his department heads from making whatever staffing decisions they need.

“By removing perceived limitations on the operational flexibility of the executive branch, state agencies will be empowered to make smarter business decisions in the management of their appropriations for personnel,” he wrote. “This represents an important first step in reshaping the operations of state government to encourage creativity and efficiency.”


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