Joint Budget Committee Work Clarification

Senator Rachel Zenzinger took a moment on her Facebook  page to clarify rumors about the work of the JBC and how the budget for the year is shaping up. This is important information to know and share as there are rumors with lots of misinformation flying this year:

“There was NO decrease to education funding to support transportation. We funded full day kindergarten to the tune of $185M (new dollars). We committed $66M new dollars to keep the Budget Stabilization flat. We bought down the Budget Stabilization Factor $77M (new dollars). We dedicated $4.5M new dollars to expanding Career Development for students and professional development for career counselors. We invested $4.5M in new dollars to the Retaining Teachers Fund. We invested $500K to our Libraries. We invested $2.3M new dollars for School Turnaround. We increased funding to the Colorado School For Deaf and the Blind $400K. We increased all the categoricals SPED, ELL, Transportation, Career & Tech Ed, Small Attendance Center, by an additional $8M. We increased the base funding of schools by $195,604,129 for a total of $6 billion ($6,110129,906). And although you may not consider higher ed as part of your concern, we also invested $120M more, above the inflationary costs, to ensure Universities can keep tuition flat. We also invested $171M into Capital Development needs. I have two bills that are significant investments into schools, Senate Bill 003 on Educator Loan Forgiveness that will cost us $650K this year and up to $6M over the next five years. Also, HB1255, similar to my bill last year, to direct more of the marijuana excise tax to the BEST Program. I also sponsored the Community Schools bill, that while does not offer us any state dollars, makes Colorado eligible for $22 billion in Federal Funds. Also, the JBC is carrying a bill to increase the Tier B special education funding (probably an additional $20M) in an ongoing basis. Nearly all of this is ongoing, base building funding.”
“The amendment that was added in the first chamber (and will be stripped, like all amendments when the budget goes to the House) said that the Office of State Planning and Budgeting, will find $106M for Transportation. It doesn’t say where. It doesn’t mandate a percentage. That brings up the TOTAL funding for Transportation from the General Fund up to $336 million versus $6 billion for education.”
“The amendment was an agreement struck so that we could proceed with the budget debate, unobstructed, while recognizing that we made a historic investment in funding full day kindergarten, which is an ongoing obligation year after year. By dedicating $106 million of one time funds to transportation, we earned the good will and collaboration of the minority party, by recognizing we had MANY competing priorities, including a $9 billion transportation shortfall. And education funding, in particular addressing the negative factor, the teacher shortage, the shortage in SPED funding, and the districts on 4 day school weeks, are ALL a priority for me. And I’ll keep working to address those issues in this budget, and the next.”
“I am a teacher and I am on the budget committee, and I worked very hard to protect education, increase funding to education, and balance this obligation with our other priorities. When the March forecast came out, we didn’t have enough “extra” money in our budget to cover full day kindergarten, much less anything else. It was very disheartening. Nevertheless, we went back and made cuts, re-arranged priorities, and managed to fund it, as well as other important education priorities. We could have taken the $250M and put all that to the negative factor, but we chose to fund family planning, being down the IDD waitlist, increase provider rates to our mental health workers, increase funding to child abuse investigations, we held tuition flat, we put much needed money into capital development, we raised salaries for our Department of Corrections officers, and we funded our Colorado water plan. Plus all our regular budget priorities for all 23 Divisions. It was tough, and I wanted to buy down the BS Factor more, but couldn’t.”

Thank you Senator Rachel Zenzinger, for the clarification on how the amendment for transportation works and the process of the Long Bill. We appreciate that you are doing what you can to fund pubic education, considering the limited resources.  It is unfortunate too many folks still don’t realize how many things are in play when it comes to finding the funding for public K-12, Higher Ed, and transportation (Due to the interaction between TABOR and Gallagher, the state has been forced to make cuts, or just not had the $’s to cover these needs in the past, putting us so far in the hole on funding any of them, what we see this year is a far from what is needed.)