Colorado to get at least $1.97 billion under stimulus
DENVER, Colorado ” All five Democrats in Colorado’s delegation to the U.S. House voted for the economic stimulus bill that was headed toward final approval Friday, and both state Republicans ” along with all of their colleagues ” voted against it.
Colorado would get about $1.97 billion in funding for programs that are distributed by formula under the bill that cleared the House, according to a Senate Appropriations Committee estimate.
That amount includes close to $404 million in highway funding, $103 million in transit funding and $15 million for homelessness prevention, according to the estimate.
The transportation estimates are in line with what state officials had been expecting, and they’ve developed a list of $1.6 billion worth of projects to pick from in spending the money.
There’s also an estimated $611 million intended to help shore up the state budget.
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A final tally for the state wasn’t immediately available.
The $787 billion package passed the House by a 246-183 vote. Not one Republican voted for it.
GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn said what Democrats delivered was a spending spree that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will weaken long-term economic growth in the U.S.
“Unfortunately, congressional leaders scheduled a snap vote on a 1,434-page bill that no one had a chance to read in its entirety, much less digest and deliberate,” Lamborn said.
Democrats hailed the bill as good for jobs, though they didn’t agree on how many would be created or saved.
Democratic Rep. John Salazar said it would help produce or protect 70,000 jobs statewide, repair aging infrastructure, reduce taxes and invest in new energy and education.
“There are some pundits and opposers of this bill who seem to think we have the luxury and time for petty partisan bickering right now. You need honest debate for good legislation, but for the millions of Americans living with the impact of this recession there is no time for political posturing or pandering. There is only time for action and representation,” Salazar said.
Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter said the package would create 60,000 Colorado jobs. Freshman Rep. Jared Polis said it addresses needs in health, education and the environment, particularly renewable energy.
“It promotes a green work force, spurs green innovation, and invests heavily in our public lands,” Polis said.
Colorado’s unemployment rate hit 6.1 percent in December, the highest in more than five years. State lawmakers have been trying to cut about $625 million from this year’s budget to make up for an expected drop in tax revenue because of the recession. More cuts are expected for next year’s budget.
Democratic state Rep. Mark Ferrandino of Denver, a member of the legislature’s budget committee, said the $611 million intended to help prevent cuts to the state budget will help, but it won’t solve all the state’s budget problems.
He said the bill requires that most of that money be spent on kindergarten through 12th grade education, which makes up about half of the state’s budget. And he said Colorado can’t spend stimulus money on programs it may not be able to afford after the stimulus money is gone.
One state constitutional amendment requires spending on education to increase each year, while another limits how much the overall budget can increase each year.
“Given our restrictions, we have to jump through more hoops,” Ferrandino said.