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The Colorado State Capitol Building on Jan. 19, 2019. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

For just the second time, the Colorado General Assembly is giving the public the chance to comment on how the state should spend billions of dollars.

The Joint Budget Committee — a panel of six lawmakers that crafts the $32 billion spending bill — will take public testimony Monday at 1:30 p.m. in the Legislative Services Building across the street from the Capitol.

State Rep. Daneya Esgar, the committee’s chairwoman, said the question lawmakers want the public to answer is straightforward: “If they were given the ability to craft the budget for the entire state of Colorado, what would their priorities be?”

This story is part of The Colorado Sun’s Capitol Sunlight project to help explain the state’s political arena and improve understanding of how the system works.

The state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is the most important bill lawmakers consider each year — and the only one they must approve. But this year, the tension surrounding the bill is heightened as economic projections indicate lawmakers won’t have as much money to spend as in prior years.

Much of the budget is federal dollars, but lawmakers have discretion on how to spend the roughly $14 billion in what’s known as the General Fund.

In 2019, the budget committee — known as the JBC — opened testimony to the public for the first time in recent memory. But budget writers were frustrated when Gov. Jared Polis’ office used the opportunity to recruit allies to testify in support of the administration’s agenda. 

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)

The governor presented his budget proposal in November. And this time, Esgar hopes to see more members of the public attend the open hearing.

“I think one of the most important voices we have in this building is the voice of the public, so why wouldn’t we have the public come in and talk to us about their budget priorities?” said Esgar, a Pueblo Democrat.

Here’s some helpful links to know if you plan to speak in front of the budget committee.

A rundown on how the budget process works. (Note: This is from 2019, so the numbers are out-dated but the process is the same.) 

A guide to lawmaking and how to lobby for your lawmakers. This includes tips about how to testify in front of a committee.

Each year the budget committee compiles a summary of how the state budget is spent. This is the “budget in brief” guide for the current 2019-20 fiscal year.

What you need to know about TABOR, Gallagher, Amendment 23 and the hidden forces that constrain spending in Colorado.

If you can’t attend, you can still listen online. Here’s the link. And if you have questions, drop it here and we’ll get back to you.

John Frank is a former Colorado Sun staff writer. He left the publication in January 2021.