Hickenlooper signs next year’s $20.5 billion budget into law

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signs the 2013-14 state budget into law Monday as five members of the Joint Budget Committee look on.

DENVER — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a $20.5 billion state budget for fiscal year 2013-14 into law in the Capitol’s west foyer Monday morning, touting the new investments in education, child welfare and mental health services.

School funding will increase by $210 million next year — a per pupil increase of $171 — if voters approve a tax hike as part of the School Finance Act, which passed the House Monday and will be on Hickenlooper’s desk once the Senate concurs with House amendments.

Hickenlooper highlighted the $13 million in new funding for improvements in the state’s child welfare system, including the establishment of a statewide abuse reporting hotline; and he applauded the $7.5 million in additional funds for mental health services, a new priority for the administration following last summer’s Aurora theater shooting.

The budget also adds $80 million to the state’s reserve fund, which will grow from four percent of the overall budget to five percent; and $188 million is set aside for capital construction projects, many of which had been put on hold during the economic downturn.

Republicans support those pieces of the budget, as well as a measure House Republicans fought for to pay off a long-standing debt to the Fire and Police Protection Association.

But most Republicans, including all 15 members of the Senate GOP caucus, voted against the budget.

“Colorado is still a place where we work together,” Hickenlooper said Monday before signing the bill. “Although we didn’t see quite as much bipartisan support as we did last year.”

Republicans objected to the size of the budget, but many voted against it out of anger over the passage of several controversial gun control measures supported by Democrats.

Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, one of just two Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee that produced the budget, took his name off the bill after passing it out of the committee and voted against it on the Senate floor out of anger, he said, about the gun control measures.

Lambert was the only JBC member not to attend the bill signing Monday.

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