DENVER (KDVR) — Mayor Michael Hancock is laying out a big budget proposal for 2022 — but voters will have the option of dialing it back with a controversial ballot measure.
Hancock submitted his 2022 budget proposal for the City and County of Denver to the city council on Wednesday.
The mayor wants to spend almost $1.5 billion. That’s 12% more than this year’s budget. The city is planning to use the money to help new businesses and get more people into affordable housing and back to work.
Hancock said $195 million worth of cuts to last year’s budget is paying off in a big way this year. The mayor highlighted how incoming revenue from marijuana will be used to help small businesses.
“It invests in programs to support our nonprofits and cultural programs and neighborhoods. It leverages a variety of funds to double our affordable housing efforts to build our successful social impact bond model and resolves homelessness for hundreds more of our unhoused neighbors,” Hancock said in a press conference Wednesday.
The plan allocates $190 million for more affordable housing, including $90 million specifically set aside to help the homeless — far more than the $13.6 million for hiring more first responders.
City council would have to approve the spending plan.
But there’s a roadblock: a potential big tax cut. Voters could reduce Denver’s sales tax rates if they vote “yes” on initiative 304.
“It’s been a massive tax increase in recent times,” Independence Institute Director of Fiscal Policy Ben Murrey said. “(Initiative 304) would decrease (sales tax rates) by about 6% from where it is now. So we’ve had a 32% increase in three years and they’re asking, ‘Hey why don’t we lower it down 6% from its current level?’ I don’t think that’s radical.”
Also on the ballot: a controversial $450 million in infrastructure spending. Some of that money would go to building a new arena at the National Western Center.
Watch the mayor’s presentation in the FOX31 NOW player below.
Here’s what the mayor’s office had to say about the proposed budget:
“Our city is emerging from the worst public health and economic crisis in our lifetime. We maintained strong reserves over the last decade and our sound fiscal management gave us the ability to weather the crisis. But, as everyone knows, we also had to make cuts last year.”
“Colorado has one of the top vaccination rates in the country and that is, in large part, boosted by Denver’s vaccination rate. Thank you, Denver, for doing your part – because we know that vaccinations are critical to our economic recovery.”
“This budget is an important component of our long-term financial plan to build a sustained & inclusive recovery. It is financially responsible, equitable, invests in our community, bolsters local businesses & serves as a force to rebuild our economy so it works for everyone.”
“Economic recovery across the city allows us to maintain the restoration of services that were cut due to the shortfalls caused by the pandemic, and it enables us to continue the investments we started in the 2021 budget to support our residents’ needs.”
“While our economic revival is underway and unemployment is declining faster than predicted, there are still stubborn pockets of unemployment in our city – particularly in underserved communities and among communities of color.”
“@MayorHancock‘s 2022 budget proposal supports thousands of new jobs and job training programs, stimulates our economy, and puts new programs into place to protect our vulnerable neighborhoods and residents.”
“This 2022 budget proposal invests in programs to support non-profits, cultural programs, & leverages a variety of funds to double our affordable housing efforts, build on our successful social impact bond model & resolve homelessness for hundreds more of our unhoused neighbors.”
“This funding will support more housing access programs like down-payment assistance and homeownership counseling, hundreds more hotel and motel rooms, more tiny home villages, and more safe outdoors spaces and safe parking spaces.”
“They will also fund housing vouchers, wrap-around services, and programs to keep people from falling into homelessness in the first place, such as rental and utility assistance, eviction protection, and of course, creating new and preserving existing affordable homes.”
“This budget proposal makes strategic, community-based public safety investments into improved policing and targeted crime prevention to keep Denver residents and neighborhoods safe.”