Roberts: A strong and balanced budget
I am pleased to report that we just passed a historic, balanced and bipartisan annual state budget at the legislature. After much work, debate and attention to detail, the Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget we sent to the governor will decrease costs for people and businesses while strengthening our economy, make record investments in education and promote a healthier and safer Colorado.
Historic education support
When the pandemic forced harsh cuts to our budget just two years ago, Republicans and Democrats alike never thought we’d be able to reduce our state’s debt to the public school system, known as the budget stabilization factor, any time soon. Yet, we worked together to change that trajectory and created a budget that has the largest investment in K-12 education in over a decade.
This budget eliminates $250 million of the BSF, bringing it to its lowest level ever. This means that record levels of support will be distributed to public schools in a sustainable manner, resulting in our schools being able to reduce classroom sizes, increase teacher pay and equip our kids with the resources they need to thrive.
Additionally, the budget invests $6.5 million to fund the new Department of Early Childhood so Colorado can fulfill the goal of offering universal preschool next year, saving parents thousands of dollars. With our region in particular, we’ve increased funding for Colorado Mountain College, which will reduce tuition for students taking the next step in their academic careers at one of these institutions of higher learning.
Supporting Coloradans and businesses
Due to factors induced by conflicts abroad and a stronger than anticipated recovery from the pandemic, the costs of goods and services are inflated, supply chain networks are experiencing disruptions, and our businesses are facing unprecedented challenges. That’s why we explored every option to decrease costs for families and businesses while bolstering Colorado’s economy and better preparing for economic setbacks in the future.
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As part of our analyses, we will allocate $157 million toward fee relief for Coloradans, including lowering gas prices, decreasing costs associated with opening a business, and waiving fees associated with many professional licenses for our front-line workers. We also continued our laser focus on the overwhelming need for affordable housing across the state, building off our historic work on the Affordable Housing Transformational Task Force. These measures will help Coloradans save money: an overarching priority of mine.
This year has served as an acute reminder of just how important it is to create a healthier Colorado when it comes to protecting our environment and improving behavioral health. Our environmentally-conscious budget includes funding to improve Colorado’s air quality: steps which will help prevent the hazy fogs over the mountains last year.
Additionally, the budget allocates a nearly $6 million increase toward state park operations and wildlife conservation. Creating a healthier state also requires improved transportation networks. That’s why the budget directs nearly $50 million toward critical road maintenance — as displayed by ongoing updates to Vail Pass — and modernizing our transit system.
In underpinning this year’s historic behavioral health investment, our budget increases funding for behavioral health community programs by $54 million. Doing so supplements the $450 million behavioral health package progressing through the legislature which increases access to community based behavioral health programs so Coloradans can receive appropriate care where they need it.
Standing up for agriculture and water
As a legislator representing rural and mountain communities, I always advocate for expanding support for our agriculture industries and water conservation efforts. This year was no different: we will continue investing in our state’s water plan and will provide substantial support for the agriculture industry.
Further, as we struggle with the voter-imposed introduction of wolves and their presence impacting our region, I prioritize ensuring that our ranchers are adequately equipped for this new reality. That’s why I partnered with my Republican colleague, Rep. Perry Will, to write, introduce and convince enough of our colleagues that ranchers deserve more resources to help mitigate the presence of wolves, protect their livestock and receive just compensation for their losses to successfully pass an amendment to the budget increasing funding for Colorado ranchers who are grappling with the impacts of wolves. Our amendment to the budget will do just that, and I look forward to continue advocating for our ranchers moving forward.
This year’s budget reflects our shared goals of decreasing the cost of living, expanding our economy, improving education and creating a healthier Colorado. It is bipartisan, fiscally balanced and an accelerant to our state’s short-term and long-term success. You can read the entire budget and access more information by visiting: leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb22-1329
As always, please contact me about this topic or any others. My cell is 970-846-3054 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rep. Dylan Roberts serves Eagle County and Routt County in the Colorado State House