The Colorado Senate put its final touches on the state’s $34 billion budget for the next fiscal year, which included money to restore last year’s cuts and funding to help the state recover faster from the pandemic.
That spending plan for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which begins July 1, calls for an additional $480 million to K-12 education, about $473 million for higher education, $380 million to the state’s public employee retirement fund and an additional $124 million for transportation projects.
The budget, which still requires approval in the Colorado House, also spends millions on such things as school construction, state infrastructure projects and wildfire mitigation grants.
It also includes about $800 million in stimulus programs to benefit agriculture, infrastructure, rural economic development, job creation and school investment.
“Budgets are more that just line items in a spreadsheet, they are principle documents that reflect what we care about as a community,” said Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo. “This year’s budget is the result of five months of tireless, bipartisan work to revitalize the state after a devastating pandemic.”
Republicans, too, hailed the passage of the budget, or at least their mark on it.
Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, managed to tack on an amendment to the budget calling for $10 million for programs that help K-12 students with disabilities.
“As somebody with dyslexia, I am proud to be a voice for them and I was honored to work with Senator (Rachel) Zenzinger (D-Arvada) to get this amendment passed,” he said. “It’s the least we can do for the most vulnerable in our society.”
Other Senate Republicans, however, didn’t get what they wanted.
Sens. Paul Lundeen, R-Colorado Springs, and Rob Woodward, R-Loveland, for example, hoped to help increase funding for early literacy programs, while Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, R-Greeley, tried to divert another $149 million toward roads and bridges.
“Our roads and bridges have been neglected for too long,” Kirkmeyer said. “The Senate Democrats aren’t interested in maintaining and building our roads with the healthiest state budget we have had in over 20 years as much as they are interested in raising taxes for bike paths and buses.”
The Democrats, however, are working on a measure to fund nearly $4 billion in new transportation projects over the next decade, which is to be funded through new fees on gasoline sales, electric cars and vehicle deliveries and cab rides.
That measure has not yet been introduced.