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Budget Week at the Capitol

 

(Editor's Note: This column should have preceded last week's column, which was inadvertently published out of order.)

Budget week in the House of Representatives took place a couple of weeks ago. Every year, the General Assembly must balance constitutional, statutory, and federal requirements with other considerations, such as competing policy priorities, caseload pressures, and the health of the state's economy. This process starts with the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) in December and ends with the final passage of the bill. At over 600 pages the budget, referred to as the long bill, defines the distribution of almost $28 Billion in spending. This year the long bill started in the Senate. After they spend hours and hours adding amendments the bill goes back to the JBC where all amendments are stripped off. The budget is then sent over to the House. We worked until 11 p.m. debating 93 different amendments. Some passed. Most failed.

I am happy to report that my amendment, to provide funding for Veteran's Court mentors, passed. Once we finished adding amendments the bill was returned to the JBC for reconciliation. They then consider all the amendments to determine their value to Colorado, their bipartisan support, and their impact on the budget. Most of the amendments will be stricken. I was told that mine was going to be funded. I am hopeful that that will be the case.

The budget consists of three parts; General Funds, Cash Funds and Federal Funds. Most revenue to the state comes in the form of state taxes, state fees and money from the federal government. The state receives a little money from gifts, fines and penalties, and interest earnings.

General purpose revenue is put into the General Fund and is used for the states core programs, such as education, health care, human services, corrections and general government. About 96% of General Fund revenue is made up from income, sales and use taxes. The General Fund is also where excise tax collected from cigarette, tobacco and liquor sales as well as taxes on insurance premiums goes.

Cash funds, the second "pot" of revenue, are special-purpose funds that exist outside the General Fund. They are funded with taxes, user fees, and fines earmarked for special programs and purposes. In 2014-15 cash funds revenue totaled $15.8 billion, or 46.6% of total state revenue. Of this, $13 billion was exempt from the TABOR limit. Some of the sources of cash funds are: Higher Education, $9.7 billion, Auraria Campus, $5.4 million, transportation-related funds, $909.5 million.

And, finally, we have Federal Funds. These are funds received from the federal government to support specific purposes and programs. For some programs, such as Medicaid, state funding is matched with federal funding. In those cases, state funding helps determine the amount of funding received for those programs. Some federal funding is passed through to local governments to fund programs such as human services programs. Federal funds are exempt from TABOR.

When you hear that the Budget has grown some huge amount you need to ask, which part? If it's the General Fund you should ask if we are overspending. If it's Cash or Federal funds it's a different issue as most of those categories are out of our control on both the receiving and the spending ends.

Total Revenue, not adjusted for inflation went from $6.0 million in 1999 to $10.0 million in 1015-16. The per capita, inflation adjusted revenue went from $2000 in 1999 to $1,827 in 2015-16. Colorado's budget has certainly increased over time due to our population increase and a large increase in federal funding.

Once the long bill goes through the entire process of being written, amended and balanced, it will come back to the House and the Senate for another vote. It will pass because it has to pass. It's the law!

If you would like to know more about this or others things that are happening at the Capitol. Follow me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/lois.landgraf.5 Contact me at lois.landgraf.house@state.co.us, or at http://www.loislandgraf.us.

 

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