4 takeaways from Gov. Jared Polis’ latest budget proposal
Governor says 'tight budget' prioritizes education, housing, safety and environmental protections
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced his budget proposal for the 2024-25 fiscal year Wednesday, calling it a “tight budget” that prioritizes the state’s values, including fully-funded public schools for the first time since 2009.
“This budget represents, in many ways, a return to a typical Colorado budget year,” Polis said in a news conference. “There’s not a lot of extra money floating around this budget. We have to prioritize.”
The proposal represents Polis’ wishes but isn’t the final budget. In January, when the annual, 120-day lawmaking session begins, legislators will decide which programs and promises to advance. The powerful Joint Budget Committee, made up of Democrats and Republicans from both chambers, is charged with writing the state’s final budget.
The budget proposal, which Polis is required to complete on Nov. 1, cannot take into account whether two statewide ballot measures with economic implications, Propositions HH and II, will pass. The governor will submit an updated budget request at the start of next year based on election outcomes.
Here are a few takeaways from the proposed budget:
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Under the proposed budget, public schools in the state would be fully funded (based on a formula developed by the state) for the first time since 2009. That would mean for a class of 22, there would be approximately an additional $705 per student.
The proposal also made requests related to higher education funding and improving the state’s universal preschool program.
In response to the education portion of the budget, Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, said: “After years of Republican demands that we fully fund students — instead of growing state government, we are glad to see Governor Polis chose to follow our leadership and prioritize funding for students and teachers,” according to a written statement.
The proposal calls for nearly $137 million to go toward boosting the state’s housing supply, including housing near transit corridors and more accessory dwelling units.
Polis’ administration introduced a bill on land use in the 2023 legislative session that was rejected by the full legislature after fierce opposition from local governments. That legislation, Senate Bill 213, included several state-level requirements for local governments aimed at increasing housing stock. Many of those concepts are expected to return during the 2024 legislative session.
The budget also proposes continuing the $30 million annual program for one-time rental assistance developed during the pandemic by using funds from Proposition 123, which was approved in 2022 and allocated tax dollars to affordable housing programs.
Polis’ team also recommended that the budget set aside nearly $40 million in crime-prevention measures for things like auto thefts, victim recovery and gun violence. The governor also designated money for auto thefts in the last proposed budget.
The governor has said he wants Colorado to be in the nation’s top 10 safest states. Complaints around safety dominated Colorado’s last election cycle.
Under the proposal, Polis earmarked dollars for protecting the state’s environment, air quality and water. That includes about $14 million for air quality programs, $10 million in refundable income tax credits for implementing sustainable agricultural practices and more than $90 million for water infrastructure and supply.
Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, R-Brighton, criticized Polis for not including income tax relief in the proposal.
“Earlier this year, the governor said it was a priority of his to reduce income taxes, yet nowhere in his budget proposal is this relief provided,” she said.