DENVER (KDVR) — Gov. Jared Polis unveiled his budget request for the fiscal year starting in 2024. The governor laid out his goals, aiming to keep Colorado in good fiscal shape no matter what happens with the nation’s economy.
Polis said the budget for the upcoming year will be tighter than in recent years, but he laid out some areas he wants to make sure to get a decent amount of funding no matter what.
His key funding areas are education, housing, public safety, healthcare, property taxes and renewable energy.
“We can invest in more housing now and fully funding education, making Colorado safer, while remaining strong, and fiscal responsibility to prepare Colorado for whatever lies ahead in the global economy,” Polis said at a Wednesday news conference to announce his budget requests.
Polis: ‘Full funding of our public schools’
The governor wants to see a $564 million increase in K-12 funding. The goal is to fully fund K-12 education and fully eliminate the budget stabilization factor, using $141 million of the funding.
The so-called budget stabilization factor reduces state aid to school districts to balance the state budget. Buying it down is something lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been calling for over the years to help fund schools in the state.
“Really, the highlight of this budget in many ways is full funding of our public schools. We’re excited to invest in reducing class sizes, paying teachers better. This has been a goal for 14 years to achieve an end to sort of this fictitious factor created to underfund our schools to be eliminated next year,” Polis said.
Housing, public safety funding in focus
The governor also wants to use around $137 million for housing: more places to live near transit, affordable housing tax credits, development of accessory dwelling units and repurposing old infrastructure.
“Leveraging existing dollars, tax credits, really the focus is increasing housing supply, because the fundamental challenge that we face is Colorado is a great place to live, but the secret place is out, and the supply of housing has simply not kept up with the demand of housing in our state, and that’s driven the cost of living through the roof,” Polis said.
The governor is also looking to allocate nearly $40 million for public safety in the state.
“We take very seriously the goal of making Colorado one of the 10 safest states. That means additional funding to reduce auto theft, including more technology and DNA analysis, protecting communities against targeted violence. These are grants that can help protect synagogues and mosques in the face of increased threats due to global events,” Polis said.
Colorado Republicans respond to Polis’ budget pitch
Senate Republicans, like Assistant Minority Leader Bob Gardner, were pleased with the public safety dollars but asked the governor to do more.
“We are encouraged to see that the governor’s budget finally acknowledges support for public safety, but there is much more work that must be done to make this state safer,” Gardner said in a statement. “If the governor is serious about reducing crime, he must work with Republicans to prioritize legislation that cracks down on criminals and creates a culture of law and order.”
Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen praised the budget for its high reserves.
“The budget proposal holds $2.3 billion in historically high budget reserves,” Lundeen said. “We should tap some of those reserves to provide property tax relief to Coloradans in the event that (property tax measure Proposition) HH is properly defeated.”
The governor spoke about the reserves.
“This is a fundamentally responsible budget for Colorado for the long term. It’s important we always think about the uncertainty and potential for rainy days ahead,” Polis said. “Colorado has faced rainy days at different times in the global economy in the past, and inevitably, we will in the future. Whether that’s in five years or 10 years, we need to be ready for whatever the future throws at us, and that’s why we maintain a historic general fund reserve of 15%.”
Polis noted the budget requests reflect today’s conditions, meaning it does not take a potential passage or failure of Prop HH into account. Another proposal will be filed in January that will reflect what happens with Prop HH and Prop II at the ballot box.