Article Originally Published on CBS Denver
DENVER (AP) – Colorado’s transportation, education and health care spending will not grow as hoped for by Gov. John Hickenlooper under a proposed $28.5 billion budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year that he sent to lawmakers Tuesday.
The proposed budget is 3.3 percent larger than this year’s, and it includes requests to use marijuana tax dollars for affordable housing and to combat unregulated marijuana sales.
But Hickenlooper’s plan requires $500 million in transfers, cuts or delayed spending on transit, health care and other programs. That $500 million gap includes a projected $195 million in tax rebates that would be required under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).
To close the gap, Hickenlooper proposes reducing payments from hospitals by $195 million; not fully funding K-12 education; cutting transportation spending increases; and keeping nearly $32 million in severance taxes normally used to compensate local governments for mineral extraction.
The moves would eliminate a TABOR-required refund in 2018 – a point of contention during the last legislative session. Republicans insist the hospital payments, which are used to get federal matching grants, can trigger state tax refunds; Democrats want to sever the payments from TABOR.
“We cannot continue to balance the state budget by bleeding our hospitals,” said Democratic Rep. Millie Hamner of Dillon, who chairs the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee.
Henry Sobanet, director of the state planning and budgeting office, said the plan can be done no matter what happens in the November election. “This request can happen in any permutation of balance of political power upstairs,” he said.
Republicans who have favored taxpayer refunds control the state Senate by one seat. Hickenlooper’s fellow Democrats control the House by three seats.
Slow economic growth, a drop in corporate profits, lower sales and income taxes and increased Medicaid spending complicated next year’s budget picture, Sobanet said.