Guv signs budget; state workers to get 2% raise

These photos taken Oct. 5, 2010 during a debate in Denver show the three candidates battling for the office of Governor of Colorado. From left are: American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo, Republican Dan Maes and Democrat John Hickenlooper. (AP Photos/Ed Andrieski)

DENVER — It doesn’t come close to restoring cuts made during the recession, but the $20.5 billion state budget signals the state is recovering, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Monday in signing next year’s spending plan.

That budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which begins July 1, includes a $210 million increase in funding for K-12 education, a 2 percent raise in base pay for state workers and an $80 million increase in the state’s rainy-day fund.

State revenues have increased by nearly $1.8 billion, but they still are not where they would be had the recent recession not occurred, Hickenlooper said in his budget signing letter to state legislators.

“After enduring a significant downturn, Colorado’s economy is outperforming the nation’s,” Hickenlooper wrote. “Yet, as we look ahead, (fiscal year) 2013-14 expected revenue is 12.6 percent, or almost $1 billion, lower when adjusted for population and inflation since (fiscal year) 2007-08.”

Still, the Legislature was able to restore many of the millions of dollars it imposed in budget cuts over the past four years to such things as K-12 schools, higher education and human service programs.

The spending plan also includes base and merit pay raises for the state’s employees, an increase they haven’t seen in four years.

The budget also includes:

■ A $27.3 million increase in funding for mental health services, including $19.8 million to establish a statewide mental health crisis system to treat those who pose an immediate danger to themselves or others.

■ Nearly $6 million to help boost economic development in the state, including $1 million to promote film production and $2 million for tourism promotion.

■ A $13.3 million increase in child welfare programs, much of which goes to prevention and intervention programs.

■ Allocating more than $188 million for capital construction and maintenance projects that had gone largely unfunded for the past several years.

Although the governor has line-item veto power for the annual budget bill, he used it only on 10 footnotes that were designed to direct where certain spending was to go.

As with past governors, Hickenlooper said he vetoed them because they violated separation-of-powers provisions under the Colorado Constitution.


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