Panel to cut $300M from higher education

The Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee voted to slash $300 million from the state’s higher education system, an amount it hoped to recoup by selling $500 million in insurance-company reserves.

If approved by the Legislature, the total cuts facing higher education amount to about half of what the state planned to spend on colleges and universities during the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Mesa State College officials already have said they would have to look to tuition increases to keep up with cuts already approved by the budget committee.

State Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said the action amounted to “brinksmanship” from the budget committee.

That brinksmanship is aimed at eliminating spending limits, said state Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction.

“Those people are scared to death of cutting a budget,” King said, “so the default position is to whack higher education, and it doesn’t have to be that way.”

The committee also planned to take $500 million from the reserves of workers’ compensation insurer Pinnacol Assurance to make up for the higher education cut.

Pinnacol uses no tax dollars but is overseen by a board appointed by the governor.

If the Legislature votes to take money from Pinnacol, $300 million would go to higher education and $200 million would go to the state’s reserves.

The Associated Press contributed to the report.


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