Colorado governor announces $60M budget cuts

DENVER — Gov. Bill Ritter is using money from medical marijuana registrations to help the state meet a $60 million fiscal emergency.

The governor is also cutting funding for the Department of Corrections, taking money from severance taxes and federal mineral lease revenues from local communities, and putting $40 million of local severance tax and federal lease grants on hold in case the economy continues to worsen.

“Today’s balancing plan continues the same strategies we’ve utilized throughout the downturn. We are preserving essential services, protecting the safety net, minimizing pain and requiring shared sacrifices and shared solutions from everyone. This is a responsible plan that continues to position Colorado for a healthy and sustainable recovery,” Ritter said today.

Budget director Todd Saliman said federal stimulus dollars, including extra Medicaid funding and state fiscal stabilization funds, provided $404 million and kept the state budget emergency from becoming more dire. The federal government has provided $1.6 billion over the past three years to help Colorado balance the budget.

Over the past three years, the governor and legislature have cut shortfalls totaling $4.3 billion.

The latest plan includes:

— Cutting $1.3 million from the Department of Corrections and imposing a $4.9 million, or 1 percent, across-the-board reduction in personnel costs by keeping positions vacant and delaying hiring. The plan does not include furloughs for the current fiscal year.

— Transferring $53 million from other accounts into the state’s General Fund to cover operating expenses, including $9 million from the Medical Marijuana Program Fund. The state anticipates ending the year with 150,000 applicants for medical marijuana cards, up from 41,000 in 2009. A marijuana card costs $90 per year.

— Transferring $20 million from accounts that support local communities with discretionary grants funded by severance tax and federal mineral lease revenues, along with $11.4 million from a grant reserve fund. Ritter said the direct-distribution grant program is not being used to help balance the budget.

The governor also will keep $150 million in the state’s general fund in case the next revenue forecast, due Sept. 20, falls below expectations.

The fiscal emergency gave Ritter the power to cut up to $75 million from this year’s $18.2 billion budget after the state failed to meet a 2 percent reserve requirement.

The September forecast will also be used to help shape Ritter’s budget for next year, due Nov. 1. Previous forecasts have indicated a $500 million to $1 billion shortfall in FY2011-12, meaning more tough decisions must be made.



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