Governor Polis releases Colorado’s state budget proposal

News

Gov. Jared Polis holds a COVID-19 update on Sept. 10, 2021

DENVER – Governor Jared Polis has released the budget proposal for the State of Colorado, concurrently submitting his budget proposal to the Joint Budget Committee of the General Assembly.

“Ending the pandemic remains my top priority as Governor, but I’m also committed to improving air quality and fighting crime while reducing fees and payroll taxes and protecting our Colorado way of life. We’ve seen the challenges that the pandemic has exposed in our workforce, healthcare, and child care systems, as well as in our small business sector, all of which have added additional pressures to Coloradans facing rising costs of living,” said Governor Jared Polis. “My proposed balanced budget aims to build on the foundation that has been laid to help Colorado recover faster and stronger, and ensure that every Coloradan has the opportunity to get ahead, while living in a safe and thriving community.”

The Governor also announced that 80% of Coloradans ages 18 and older have received at least one dose of the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine.

Fiscal Responsibility

  • A historic $1.84 billion investment to prepay some of the state’s most important programs to ensure funding of these essential services and protect our future fiscal foundation.
  • This request builds on joint efforts with the General Assembly and Joint Budget Committee earlier this year to set a historic state General Fund reserve of 15% to better prepare Colorado for economic uncertainty.

Historic Investments in Education and Workforce

K-12:

  • Our students and public schools are the foundation of Colorado’s future and I’m proud that this budget increases funding for K-12 education by $381.2 million in FY 2022-23. This includes a significant investment to reduce the Budget Stabilization Factor by $150 million to 4.7%, an all-time low since its peak of 16.0% in FY 2012-13, and increases per pupil funding by $526 to the highest level ever. It also proposes to pre-pay an additional $300 million to the State Education Fund in order to maintain this new, higher level of investment in our K-12 schools.

Pre-K: 

  • The new Department of Early Childhood will prepare for the launch of Colorado’s Universal Preschool program, which will provide at least 10 hours per week of free, high-quality preschool to all four-year-olds. It will also streamline the application process for early childhood programs to increase access to services for all families through an equitable and transparent approach. With an initial investment of $13 million, of which $5.1 million is General Fund, this request is the initial response to the Transition Report, and is a direct result of the H.B. 21-1304 Transition Working Group and the Transition Advisory Group’s significant stakeholder work to set the Department of Early Childhood up for success this year and for years to come.  

Higher Ed: 

  • This budget makes significant investments in the quality of our institutions of higher education to help them meet these needs, including an increase of $42.6 million in operating support, an increase of 4.6%, parallel to the “inflationary and per pupil” increase in the state’s funding for K-12 education. 
  • To ensure access and affordability for Colorado students, this budget also includes an increase of $9.8 million for student financial aid, and investments to reduce costs and keep tuition from rising, including $139 million in capital maintenance and improvements, directed at some of our more underserved higher education institutions, plus establishment of new childcare facilities on campuses to serve students juggling parenting responsibilities with learning.  

Putting Money Back in Coloradans Paychecks and Supporting Colorado Businesses

This budget invests in our workers and our small businesses, with unemployment and FAMLI insurance premium relief, putting more money in Coloradans paychecks.

  • $600 million for Relief from Pandemic-Related Unemployment Insurance charges to save employers money and protect worker wages 
  • $104 Million in fee relief for individuals and businesses, including making it free to start a business, FAMLI Paid family and medical leave premium relief, and healthcare professionals fee relief, $5 million to help workers find in-demand opportunities 
  • $5M to help workers find in-demand opportunities  
  • $51 million to help businesses find workers and helping workers find good-paying jobs through short-term credentials and apprenticeships
  • $30M to create more child care facilities; Colorado can create more child care options for hard-working Coloradans by renovating existing state buildings, including higher education institutions, so that these facilities can be used as child care centers for the public, state employees, and students. This effort will increase the supply of child care for Colorado’s workforce and help build the workforce of the future.

State Employee Labor Agreement: 

  • 3% across-the-board raises for state employees for 3 years
  • Keeping premium increases low for state workers by agreeing to cover up to $20 million in health, life, and dental premium increases; 
  • $5.4 million for 160 hours of Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML), $0.5 million to fund employee tuition reimbursement, $0.5 million to support departments which have employees who serve as union officers or stewards, $0.3 million for the Colorado State Employee Assistance Program (CSEAP)

The budget provides funding to support the following which align with the partnership agreement articles, most of which are funded through total compensation adjustments:  

  • moving all employees to a $15 minimum wage;
  • an increase in annual leave accruals after the 36th month of employment;
  • the completion of a pay equity study by September 30, 2022;
  • increasing in shift differential rates;
  • the addition of a new state holiday, recommended as Juneteenth which is subject to legislative approval.

Saving People Money on Health Care:

Here in Colorado, we have an unwavering commitment to putting money into the pockets of Coloradans and not the health care and pharmaceutical industry.  The global pandemic placed significant strains on health and the health care delivery system, and I am eternally grateful to our nurses, doctors and frontline workers who have cared for thousands of Coloradans. But even in the midst of the challenges posed by the pandemic, Colorado made critical strides in 2021 to increase access to health care and behavioral health, while also driving towards changes to help Coloradans save money on health care. And with this budget, we are building on that momentum. 

  • $530 million over three years to protect and transform home and community based services – raise wages for caregiving workforce to $15/hour to ensure Medicaid access to services 
  • $24M to innovation to reward high quality care that is cost-effective (HCPF and DOI alternative payment models)
  • The Office of Saving People Money on Health Care will create an innovative, $300,000 pilot program that will help patients address financial toxicity–the accumulated  stress felt by patients with chronic conditions and which can have broad impacts on their financial security and health outcomes
  • $11M investment by the Office of eHealth Innovation to help rural health care providers access critical data and technology, improve care coordination,and enhance the efficiency of care delivery to rural patients. 
  • In addition, we will work with the General Assembly to direct $30M of federal stimulus dollars to help rural hospitals and clinics.

Behavioral Health:

The Polis-Primavera administration envisions a behavioral health system that is comprehensive, equitable, and effectively meets the needs of all Coloradans. The current lack of coordinated, integrated services and appropriate care settings often results in limited access to care. Further, COVID-19 has resulted in significant hardship on our state’s public and private behavioral health providers. Therefore, our budget leverges $550 million in federal funds to address structural gaps in our behavioral health continuum. 

  • In addition, in response to the urgent situation, I have directed $32.2 million in discretionary federal funds, including $11.9 million in emergency funding to expand residential options that can serve youth with acute behavioral health needs.
  • My FY23 budget also includes $10M investment by the Department of Human Services to hire 100 staff to operationalize 44 new forensic beds at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Fort Logan. 

Healthy & Safe Communities

Public Safety: 

$113.0 million public safety package is a bold investment strategy with initiatives to reduce crime, ensure safer streets, build diversity in our public safety workforce, and to provide support, training, and financial support for our hard-working police officers. 

It also gets people the help they need by investing in community policing models, loan forgiveness for justice-involved behavioral health workforce, early intervention grants, and workforce investments. 

  • $16.6M in public safety workforce transformations: Investments include funding to support access to mental health services, help train and recruit law enforcement officers to support diversity of the workforce reflecting the communities they serve. 
  • $35.9M in community public safety investments include funding to make our streets safer through lighting improvements; increased community watch; and proven neighborhood models, create a blueprint that connects schools, public safety, public health and other agencies into a single response; and provide grant resources for school safety enhancements, such as expansion of mental health resources and infrastructure improvements to keep students and staff safe.
  • $6.0M in domestic violence initiatives: Funding will be available for gender-based violence services, including anti-domestic violence and anti-sexual assault services, to mitigate the compounded safety concerns faced by interpersonal violence survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • $47.9M in behavioral health investments, including proven strategies that reduce crime and increase access to treatment for Coloradans in crisis, funding to implement criminal justice early-intervention programs to prevent at-risk individuals from becoming involved, or further involved, in the criminal justice system, adding additional bed capacity to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan, and bolstering our behavioral health workforce by offsetting loans, providing scholarships, and leveraging bonus payments in underserved communities.
  • $7.1M in recidivism reduction initiatives: Investments focus on improving youth outcomes after release, fostering humane and purpose-driven facilities, and enhancing formerly incarcerated individuals’ ability to re-enter the workforce and make an associated positive impact in their community.

Homelessness Response and Solutions: 

  • $200 million in investments from the Economic Recovery and Relief Cash Fund to be used to leverage local and other funding to reduce homelessness, including: 
    • $100 million that will be leveraged with local and external resources twice that amount  for a competitive matching grant program designed for local communities to invest in community-based continuum of responses for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness with complex needs, including emergency shelters, transitional housing, recovery care, and related residential programs, as well as permanent housing with wrap-around services.
    • Investments in two key supportive residential recovery campuses, one in Denver ($50M) and one at our state-owned Ridge View site ($45M) in partnership with local communities; and
    • $5 million investment to help inform intervention strategies and create a lasting structure for efficient coordination of resources. 

Investing in Colorado’s Main Streets for Safe and Thriving Communities 

  • One-time state General Fund investment of $40 million dedicated funds for designing and building safer streets. CDOT’s Main Streets program has revitalized the use of urban roadway space for active transportation, economic activity, community, and recreation in communities across the state. 

Air Quality: 

  • This budget continues our aggressive pursuit of both climate and air quality improvements in Colorado by investing $424M of one-time General Fund in a broad set of targeted initiatives including:
    • $255M for rapidly greening our transportation system, including $150M to position Colorado as a national leader in the electrification of our school bus fleet;
    • $50M for decarbonization of the industrial and aviation sector;
    • $4.5M for the environmental efficiency of our cannabis industry; and
    • $52M over two years to drastically increase resources available to our Air Pollution Control Division to monitor and regulate emissions, support changing over to cleaner technology, and more thoroughly engage with our communities.
  • The budget also includes a capital request for Colorado’s state-owned buildings that prioritizes $225.9M in projects that mitigate environmental harm and resource waste.

Housing That’s Affordable:

  • Through the Affordable Housing Transformational Task Force process, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help address these challenges and create stability for all Coloradans, by allocating $400 million that can be leveraged by two times or more toward increasing access to affordable and workforce housing. The Governor’s key priorities ($175 million) include:
    • $100 million for investments in strong communities, to provide infrastructure grants for local infill infrastructure needs to help support and catalyze affordable housing development and further Colorado’s sustainable development patterns, provide community benefits, ensure multimodal connectivity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and strengthen social and environmental equity, and improve quality of life and community resilience. This will also build upon efforts and investments made in HB21-1271.
    • $25M for financing energy improvements in affordable housing, which will provide funding for incremental upfront costs for efficient, electric measures and renewable energy systems for both existing buildings and new housing construction. Reducing our carbon footprint while saving residents money on their monthly bills. 
    • $25M for housing innovation incentives to support and grow businesses in prefabricated housing (e.g., modular, 3D printed, manufactured, kits and other innovative housing technologies) who can provide additional high quality housing units at a low cost to communities across the state, and  make a critical investment for additional production factories across the State. 
    • $25M for Colorado Housing and Finance Authority’s Middle Income Access Program to fund an increased investment for missing middle, workforce housing.

Read the Governor’s letter and the entire proposal.

Watch the news conference.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Latest Local Stories

More Local