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Politics and Government

Gov. Polis says the federal shutdown isn’t impacting Colorado’s state budget — but that could quickly change

More than 2,200 unemployment claims related to the federal shutdown have been filed in Colorado

Gov. Jared Polis speaks to reporters on Jan. 16, 2019, about his budget proposal. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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Like every other state, Colorado has been feeling the pinch of the ongoing federal government shutdown. But Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday it’s not affecting the makeup of the state’s budget — yet.

“We don’t feel at this point, if the government were to reopen promptly, that there necessarily would be a budget impact to the state,” the Democrat told lawmakers in charge of writing the state’s budget. “But with the uncertainty from Washington, it’s certainly possible — likely, I would add — that if the shutdown were to continue for another month, another two months, we would have to present to you some sort of budget that would represent a shortfall from the federal side.”

He added: “We will try to give you some (idea) about what that request might look like, in the coming days, so that you can prepare for that contingency.”

Colorado and the 2018-19 federal shutdown: What’s open, what’s not and what’s kind of open

If the Colorado legislature ultimately has to divert funds in the state budget to state agencies and programs impacted by the government shutdown, that would almost definitely change the outlook of how much money is available for legislation passed at the state Capitol this year.

Polis said his staff is asking state agency heads what effects they have experienced and how that could worsen if the shutdown drags on. He did not go into specifics about what state-level departments or initiatives have been impacted by the shutdown thus far.

So far, more than 2,200 unemployment claims related to the federal shutdown have been filed in Colorado as the government’s closure stretches into its 26th day on Thursday.

As of Wednesday morning, 2,210 unemployment claims related to the federal shutdown had been filed in Colorado. This map shows which counties those claims come from. (Provided by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment)

Thousands of federal workers in the state, including those in the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Transportation Security Administration and Justice Department, have been furloughed or are working without pay during the shutdown.

Officials have been warning of worsening impacts from the shutdown in Colorado should it continue.

Earlier this week, Rocky Mountain National Park — a poster-child for places impacted by the shutdown in Colorado — announced that it was bringing back to work about 10 percent of its staff and paying them with revenue generated from recreation fees. That allowed officials to reopen areas that had been closed because of a lack of people to plow and maintain roads.  

“Approximately 90 percent of Rocky Mountain National Park staff are still unpaid (whether furloughed or excepted — which means they are working and not getting paid, such as our law enforcement rangers and dispatchers),” Kyle Patterson, a park spokeswoman, said in a statement Tuesday. “The roughly 10 percent of staff that are being brought back (maintenance and entrance station staff) will be paid through the fee funds.  However, the limited staff that are being brought back will not be working full-time hours.”

Colorado Sun staff writer Tamara Chuang contributed to this report.


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