This week we are sharing key updates around legislative activity at the Capitol.
After a painstaking three weeks of discussion, the Joint Budget Committee is wrapping up decisions to balance the state budget before the full legislature reconvenes next week.
On Monday, Gov. Jared Polis distributed $510 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to K-12 education in an executive order. These are one-time funds that districts must use for needs associated with the pandemic by the end of the year. While some lawmakers said this move “softens the blow”, federal relief funding does not impact state budget process and the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) still had to make difficult decisions around cuts to K-12 education.
After discussing a variety of politically contentious options for cuts in K-12 education, the JBC decided to reduce Education funding in the range of $577-$724 million from projected 20-21 costs. The specifics are still vague and final numbers will be heavily dependent on how the sponsors of the School Finance Act choose to address the funding set aside by the JBC as well as if other cost savings are realized through legislation that will move alongside the budget bill.
Proposed changes to the budget and School Finance Act will still have to be approved by the full legislature.
We are grateful to members of the JBC and all JBC and Office of Legislative Legal Services staff who have worked tirelessly over the last several weeks to put forward a constitutionally required balanced budget. We know much work remains, but staff and legislators responded to this incredibly grim challenge with determination and heart.
Many more conversations about the state budget and school finance will play out in the coming weeks. We have signed onto letters encouraging a more equitable distribution of school funding by either adjusting the cost of living factor or by considering local mill-levy overrides in allocating state share. Through Great Schools, Thriving Communities we’ve also added our name to calls for the legislature to consider emergency tax provisions under TABOR. Though unlikely to meet the 2/3rds required vote, we believe it continues to be a priority to advocate for additional revenues to offset these significant cuts.
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