DENVER • Celebrating 100 days in office, Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday signed his first state budget.
The 2019-20 spending plan of $30.5 billion includes $175 million for one of Polis’ top legislative priorities — free full-day kindergarten — which cleared the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday and is awaiting a review from the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Polis said he did not veto anything in the bill; it’s the only measure in which he has the authority to veto any line item, although that hasn’t happened in modern history.
The budget was sponsored by five of the six members of the Joint Budget Committee. First-year committee member Republican Rep. Kim Ransom of Littleton did not sponsor the bill or defend it when it was in the House, and she did not attend the signing ceremony.
Budget writers had to scramble a bit when the March revenue forecast showed the state would receive about $250 million less in tax revenues than was estimated just three months earlier.
The biggest change when the bill went through the General Assembly was a late compromise on transportation funding.
An agreement between House and Senate Republicans and Democrats came up with $70 million in additional one-time only funding for road and bridge projects.
Coupled with $230 million already set aside by the JBC and by last year’s Senate Bill 1, the Department of Transportation will have $300 million to work with in 2019-20 on projects.
Lawmakers also approved a buydown of $77 million for the budget stabilization factor — that’s the debt to public education started during the Great Recession — that leaves the debt at just under $600 million.
It started at $1 billion in 2010.
The oddly named BS factor was a decision made by lawmakers in 2010 when the state didn’t have enough money to cover its obligations to K-12 public education, despite constitutional requirements that education be funded with an increase based on inflation and enrollment.
Tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities will remain flat in 2019-20, thanks to an infusion of $121 million to cover any potential increases.
The budget, for the first time, uses $10 million in general fund dollars instead of severance taxes to cover continued implementation of the state water plan.
State employees will receive a 3 percent across-the-board increase in salary.
Another 42 inpatient beds will be added to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, a $5 million appropriation made in the budget.
“I am proud to stand behind the values” set forth in this budget, said JBC Chair Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City, as the governor signed the bill.
Gov. Polis did not veto anything in the budget bill; it’s the only measure in which he has line-item authority.