DENVER (KDVR) — As 2021 comes to an end, Gov. Jared Polis and other state leaders are looking ahead to the future, which includes the 2022-2023 state budget.
The Polis proposal includes $40 billion in total funds, which would increase the state’s budget by 3.9%. It would increase investments in public schools, air quality, housing, public safety and mental health.
The governor proposes increasing the state’s operating budget by $1 billion, or about 8% over last year.
Because of Colorado’s taxpayer bill of rights, or TABOR, the state can’t spend more money than it brings in. If there is a surplus in state funds, it gets refunded back to the taxpayer.
The state is forecasting a stronger than expected financial recovery out of the pandemic for the next fiscal year and believes it will bring in more money to spend. One of the governor’s objectives is to leverage federal funding through the CARES Act, activating local matches to maximize investments in different areas.
The governor’s office wants to spend $400 million to help Coloradans afford to live in a state that has seen rapid growth and the cost of living skyrocket over the past decade. Part of this investment can be leveraged by “two times or more” to increase access to affordable and workforce housing, according to the administration. Here are examples of what some of that funding will go to:
- $100 million for infrastructure grants for local needs to jumpstart affordable housing development
- $25 million for energy improvements in affordable housing
- $25 million for housing innovation incentives to support and grow businesses in prefabricated housing (think modular, 3D printed, manufactured, kits and other innovative housing technologies)
- $25 million for Colorado Housing and Finance Authority’s Middle Income Access Program to increase workforce housing
The governor’s office wants to spend $424 million in one-time general fund spending for a broad set of climate-related initiatives:
- $255 million to reduce emissions in Colorado’s transportation system, including $150 million for the electrification of school bus fleets
- $50 million to decarbonize the industrial and aviation sector
- $4.5 million to make the cannabis industry more environmentally efficient
- $52 million over two years to increase resources for the Air Pollution Control Division
- A capital request ($225.9 million) to make Colorado’s state-owned buildings more environmentally friendly
K-12 education funding will increase by $381.2 million in the governor’s proposal, increasing per pupil funding by $526. If approved, that would be the highest level the state has seen. It also proposes to pre-pay an additional $300 million to the State Education Fund.
The budget proposal calls for an increase of $42.6 million in operating support for higher education, which increases that budget by 4.6%. The budget also calls for a $9.8 million increase for student financial aid and $139 million for capital maintenance to underserved higher education institutions in Colorado. It would also create new childcare facilities on Colorado campuses to help students that are juggling parenting with their education.
The administration wants to spend $200 million from the Economic Recovery and Relief Cash Fund and combine that with local and other funding to reduce homelessness:
- $100 million for a competitive matching grant program that local communities can use to invest in community-based responses for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness with complex needs
- $95 million investments in two residential recovery campuses, one in Denver and one the state-owned Ridge View site
- $5 million to help inform intervention strategies
The budget proposal calls for using $550 million in federal funds to sure up the gaps in Colorado’s behavioral health system, acknowledging the pandemic played a critical role in the diminishing mental health of Coloradans who need services.
- $32.2 million in discretionary federal funds to expand residential options that can serve youth with acute behavioral health needs
- $10 million for the Department of Human Services to hire 100 staff and create 44 new forensic beds at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Fort Logan.
The governor wants to invest $113 million in a public safety package to reduce crime, make Colorado streets safer and build diversity within Colorado public safety workforces.
- $16.6 million in public safety workforce transformations that include supporting access to mental health services, training and recruiting law enforcement officers to support diversity
- $35.9 million in community public safety investments, including: community watch, neighborhood models, lighting improvements and a model to connect law enforcement with schools and public health
- $6.0 million in domestic violence initiatives
- $47.9 million in behavioral health investments
- $7.1 million in recidivism reduction initiatives