Special session looms as lawmakers eye budget, revenue

They adjourned only this past Wednesday, but state legislators might return to the Capitol this summer to trim Colorado’s $17.9 billion budget.

House and Senate members could reconvene in July if a June 20 state revenue report shows the state has collected less money in the first half of this year than the budget planned for and more shortages are expected in the future.

State Reps. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, and Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, guessed Thursday they had a 50 percent chance of returning to the Capitol for a special session.

Senate Republican Leader Josh Penry of Grand Junction called those chances a fair estimate and offered better odds the second half of the year will see a revenue shortfall.

“There’s a 100 percent chance our budget will be out of balance by January 1,” Penry said.

There are other ways to balance the budget than calling a special session. The Legislature granted Gov. Bill Ritter the ability to transfer up to $136 million in statutory reserves to cash funds if needed. There also are millions of federal dollars available to patch gaps in the budget. That should leave enough money to keep the budget intact even if the state comes up nearly $200 million short, said Sen. Al White, R-Hayden.

“I’m optimistic we won’t have to go back into special session, but that remains to be seen.

If it’s off by $300 million, that could be an issue,” White said. “If June hangs in there, then I think we’ll be safe from a special session.”

Republican Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez said the possibility of a summer session looks “a little remote right now.” He expects the Joint Budget Committee could make the budget changes needed if the revenue forecast isn’t too alarming.

Collbran Rep. Laura Bradford, however, was told the June 20 numbers are expected “to not look so good.”

“All of us were kind of told if you’re going to take a vacation, pick June or August. I thought, ‘I get the message. We’re to come back to session in July,’ ” said Bradford, a Republican.

Bradford’s guess is there’s a 60 percent chance she’ll be back at her desk on the House floor this summer.

Even if the budget forecast is sunny in June, Curry said a storm could be on the way.

“If the numbers are lower in the November forecast, we could be scrambling to make additional cuts,” she said.


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