By Steven Bonifazi
(DENVER, Colo.) Gov. Jared Polis announced his budget proposal for the fiscal year 2022-23 on Monday in addition to submitting his proposal to the Joint Budget Committee of the General Assembly.
The budget calls for financial investments aimed at solving the Centennial State's most urgent issues, from affordable housing and business recovery to crime and homelessness to name just a few. During a press conference on Monday, Gov. Polis additionally declared that 80% of Colorado residents ages 18 and older have been given at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Ending the pandemic remains my top priority as Governor, but I’m also committed to improving air quality and fighting crime while reducing fees and payroll taxes and protecting our Colorado way of life," Gov. Polis said in a press release. "We’ve seen the challenges that the pandemic has exposed in our workforce, healthcare, and child care systems, as well as in our small business sector, all of which have added additional pressures to Coloradans facing rising costs of living."
“My proposed balanced budget aims to build on the foundation that has been laid to help Colorado recover faster and stronger, and ensure that every Coloradan has the opportunity to get ahead, while living in a safe and thriving community.”
The budget calls for $1.84 billion to be invested into prepaying a portion of the state's programs to protect and secure the longevity of the state's fiscal foundation. The state's funding for K-12 education is proposed to be increased by $381.2 million, with per-pupil funding to be increased by $526.
Furthermore, a total of $13 million is to be invested into having the new Department of Early Childhood prepare for the launch of the state's Universal Preschool program as well as streamlining the application process for increased access to early childhood programs for all families. The budget also includes Colorado's higher education institutions, proposing a $42.6 million increase in operating support in addition to an increase of $9.8 million for student financial aid and investments to lower costs and keep tuition from increasing.
The budget is also geared toward investing in-state workers and small businesses through investments including $600 million for Relief from Pandemic-Related Unemployment Insurance charges, $5 million to aid workers in finding in-demand jobs, $30 million to develop more child care facilities and more. A total of $5.4 million is proposed to be invested for 160 hours of Paid Family Medical Leave in addition to $0.5 million to fund employee tuition reimbursement, $0.5 million to help departments with employees serving as union officers or stewards and $0.3 million for the Colorado State Employee Assistance Program.
The budget also proposes moving the state's minimum wage to $15 for all employees. Gov. Polis's budget also plans on saving Coloradans money on health care by investing $530 million over three years to protect home and community-based services, $24 million to reward high-quality cost-effective care, $11 million to provide rural health care providers with access to data and technology to improve care coordination and better care delivery efficiency and $30 million to help rural hospitals and clinics.
Gov. Polis directed a total of $32.2 million to widen residential choices for youth regarding behavioral needs as well as $10 million invested by the Department of Human Services to employ 100 staff to work for 44 new forensic beds at the Colorado Mental Health Institute located in Fort Logan. There is also a proposed $113.0 million public safety package intended to reduce crime, ensure safer streets, create diversity within the public safety workforce and provide support and training to police officers.
A total of $200 million in investments from the Economic Recovery and Relief Cash Fund to help reduce homelessness including $100 million utilized by local and external resources to invest in community-based responses for people experiencing homelessness, $50 million to a Denver residential recovery campus and $45 million to Ridge View's site and $5 million to inform intervention strategies and develop successful coordination of resources.
Regarding air quality, the budget proposes a $424 million investment of a one-time General Fund for a multitude of initiatives such as $255 million for greening the state's transportation system, $52 million to increase resources for Colorado's Air Pollution Control Division to monitor emissions, $4.5 million to ensure the environmental efficiency of the state's cannabis industry and much more.
The budget is also proposing $400 million to be allocated to increase access to affordable and workforce housing, with key priorities such as $100 million to provide infrastructure grants, $25 million for funding energy improvements in affordable housing, $25 million for housing innovation incentives and another $25 million for Colorado Housing and Finance Authority's Middle Income Access Program for missing middle and workforce housing.
For more information regarding Gov. Polis' proposed budget, including where to read his letter and full proposal, click here.