Tightening the state belt

When they return to work in January, state lawmakers will face an unenviable task: They must cut $604 million from state spending that’s already been approved for the next six months.

A report released Friday by the Legislative Council estimated that the state faces a $604 million shortfall in the budget year that ends in July, unless cuts are made.

And, because Colorado is constitutionally required to have a balanced budget, cuts will have to be made.

The shortfall amounts to roughly 8 percent of the state’s general fund. But because of things like Medicaid and Amendment 23, which mandates annual increases for K-12 public education, cuts cannot be made uniformly across the board.

Look for the cancellation of major construction projects such as a new prison and buildings on college campuses, so that money can be used to temporarily fill the gas in the general fund.

But there will also have to be real cuts in state programs such as higher education, and services to state residents.

These will be difficult decisions for legislators, but they are not unlike decisions many Colorado families are having to make as the economy worsens and jobs disappear.


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