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Politics and Government

The $30.5 billion state budget bill is done, and transportation gets a boost

The House and Senate approved the measure after budget writers tapped two reserve funds to cover extra spending

From left, starting at second from left: State Rep. Daneya Esgar, a Pueblo Democrat, and Sen. Dominick Moreno, a Commerce City Democrat. The pair lead the Joint Budget Committee. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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Colorado lawmakers gave final approval Friday to a $30.5 billion state budgetpackage that includes $300 million for road projects, $175 million for full-day kindergarten and a 3% pay hike for all state employees.

The agreement on the spending plan that starts July 1 came after the budget writers found an extra $70 million for transportation as part of a deal with Republican lawmakers who threatened to obstruct the debate.

The additional dollars will come from a variety of sources, including $40 million out of two reserve accounts. The state’s push for full-day kindergarten took a $10 million cut because fewer students are expected to participate. And the remaining $20 million came from unspent dollars and minor accounting tweaks.

MORE: What the $30.5 billion Colorado state budget means for Jared Polis, business owners, state employees and you — yes, you

The original budget package allocated $230 million for roads. The new $300 million total — which will require additional legislation this session — would get split between the state and local governments for highway construction, mass transit projects and road maintenance. The total need for transportation in Colorado is estimated near $9 billion.

State Rep. Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat and budget writer, said the budget package boosts spending in key areas, such as education and road building. “We are making historic investments across the areas we care about,” he told lawmakers.

MORE: A guide to how the Colorado state budget works.

Earlier, the House and Senate approved competing versions of the spending bill that spent too much money and didn’t meet the requirement for a balanced budget. So the Joint Budget Committee met to reconcile the plans Thursday and made a series of spending cuts to bring it back in line.

The cuts included $400,000 less for suicide prevention efforts and millions for state contractors who provide home health care services from what lawmakers proposed. An additional $40 million remains for legislation still pending this term.

“It was not an easy number to arrive at,” said Sen. Dominick Moreno, a Commerce City Democrat and the chief budget writer.

The House approved the final budget bill by a 41-22 vote with only one Republican in support, state Rep. Lois Landgraf of Fountain. The Senate later voted 25-7 on the bill with a handful of Republican lawmakers in favor.

The budget bill now goes to Gov. Jared Polis for consideration. The governor has line-item veto authority to strike items in the budget bill.

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