Hickenlooper proposes huge budget cuts

DENVER — Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to slash the state’s budget by about $570 million more than his predecessor, the bulk of which will be borne by the state’s public schools.

In releasing his first proposed spending plan today, the Democrat told legislators that the state has little choice but to make deep cuts in some of its core services: education and Medicaid.

Together, they make up about 63 percent of all state spending, and annual caseload increases in both are far outpacing the state’s ability to keep up, he said.

“This budget proposal is about tough choices and sustainability,” Hickenlooper said. “Frankly, it is about living within our means at a difficult time. We are taking difficult steps now to ensure that Colorado’s budget is on a sustainable path, which is critical as we seek to achieve both short-term and long-term economic growth.”

The governor’s budget would cut K-12 spending by about $375 million, cut higher education funding by $36 million, and eliminate about 260 state jobs.

The new governor also is proposing closing four state parks, three of which are on the Western Slope, and dipping even deeper into severance and federal mineral lease revenues, money that generally goes to local governments to mitigate the impact of energy development.

His plan, which is designed to close the state’s structural budget gap by about half, would take $122 million in severance tax dollars, almost twice what former Gov. Bill Ritter gleaned to balance the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Three of the four parks he would close are Harvey Gap State Park near Rifle, Sweitzer Lake State Park near Delta, and Paonia State Park.


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