“The State of Colorado has been and is passing through a period of stress and suffering … which has resulted in unparalleled conditions of unemployment and destitution, and … relief funds … have been inadequate to meet the problem.”

No, this is not an excerpt from a resolution passed by the Colorado General Assembly to address the economic fallout of the current public health crisis.

This is part of a resolution passed at the state Capitol in 1933 — midway through the Great Depression.

State Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver

While we still may be able to avoid a depression, the budgetary shortfalls and hardships posed by the coronavirus pandemic are driving economic anxiety that hasn’t been felt in nearly a century. 

As the legislature plans to head back to the Capitol on May 26, we face many difficult decisions about our state’s budget situation. The Joint Budget Committee reconvened last week to start putting this challenging puzzle together, and we face a set of grim choices.

Overall, we’re facing an estimated $3 to $4 billion reduction in revenue for the next fiscal year, which is the worst drop in Colorado history. For context, this is more than three times the budget cuts we faced following the Great Recession of 2008.

While the first set of assistance from the federal government has been helpful, it is simply not enough. We are going to have to make cuts to some of our most vital programs — like education, human services and infrastructure programs — even though it is clear that these critical investments are the foundation that will help the economy recover more quickly. 

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Our teachers are already overworked and underpaid, and we are now facing a possible 20% cut for education funding. Our public health infrastructure is already stretched thin, and now we may not be able to maintain it.

Unfortunately, Sen. Cory Gardner and Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate are refusing to help state and local governments at the scale this moment demands. The president and the Mitch McConnell-led Senate can support big payments and bailouts for big business, but not to help our schools?

We must adequately fund the critical programs of our state government that will help us get through this pandemic. To accomplish that, we should learn lessons from the past and use this opportunity to build resilient societal infrastructures that can help us withstand the next crisis. 

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For instance, the previously quoted resolution from 1933 didn’t just take note of the economic hardships prompted by the Great Depression, it established a commission to look into the then-new idea of unemployment insurance.

This planning has paid off, as unemployment insurance has paid out more than $250 million to Coloradans since the pandemic began a few short months ago. 

When my colleagues and I reconvene at the Capitol this month, we will fight to weather this economic storm as best as we can. We will work to prioritize maintaining K-12 education funding and shoring up our social safety nets, like unemployment insurance, relief for renters and the earned income tax credit.

However, we desperately need more aid from the federal government to help mitigate this financial blow and to maintain the investments that will help us recover — and that’s left in the hands of Sen. Cory Gardner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

State Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, represents Colorado Senate District 31.

Special to The Colorado Sun Email: bella.combest.senate@gmail.com Twitter: @HansenForCO