Lawmaker: Laws, limits are ‘breaking’ Colorado budget |

Lawmaker: Laws, limits are ‘breaking’ Colorado budget

Associated Press Writer

DENVER, Colorado – Colorado Senate President Brandon Shaffer on Wednesday told a state panel reviewing the tangle of rules dictating how the state collects and spends money that the state’s budget “is brittle and it is breaking.”

“It exposes our children, our elderly and our working families to the turbulent waters of a global economy. It compromises the quality of our work force, and undermines a healthy climate for business,” Shaffer told the panel and an overflow crowd that attended the hearing.

Shaffer, a Longmont Democrat, spoke on the first of two days of hearings before the 16-member Fiscal Stability Commission, which will review conflicting laws and constitutional amendments and get recommendations on how to make them work better.

The panel was expected to help lawmakers bridge a budget shortfall could grow as high as $838 million next year. Tax revenue was expected to drop $384 million more than legislators earlier expected.

Lawmakers said they hope the panel will determine which state services are essential or priorities, their costs and determine how to pay for them.

State Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, told panel members that he was a lawmaker during the last state budget crisis in 2003 when lawmakers raided cash funds and used other gimmicks to balance the budget.

“I don’t want to see it happen again,” he said.

State Sen. Rollie Heath, a Democrat from Boulder, said all options are being examined, including elimination of some programs “we shouldn’t be doing.”

Shaffer said budget limits have tied the hands of lawmakers into “a Gordian Knot of well intentioned but conflicting fiscal policies” that threatens the state’s financial future.

Earlier this year, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter approved a bill changing a spending limit on general fund growth, making it easier for the state to pay for colleges, prisons, welfare and other big-ticket items. Lawmakers, however, said they still need to fix the state’s other spending limits, including the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which limits the growth of government revenue and spending; the Gallagher Amendment, which limits residential property tax increases; and Amendment 23, which requires increased spending for public education.

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