The real news is COVID-19, and you are all more current on rising numbers, the details social separation, how to self-quarantine, sheltering in place and business closures.
I could add more information than could be covered in this space, especially considering it will be dated information by the time you read it.
So, on to what will be the major and most pressing topic at the legislature when we reconvene, whenever that might be: the budget.
That is the one and only thing we are required to accomplish during the legislative session, no matter how long or short.
Somewhat lost amongst the ever-changing news of the coronavirus was the March budget forecast. The news of a falling budget was no surprise, we just did not have a dollar figure to hang our hat on. Short version is $396 million less this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and $750 million less for the next fiscal year.
While that sounds dire, and actually is, don’t forget those numbers are off of earlier projections, not the previous years’ revenue. When comparing to actual revenue, the forecast for fiscal year 2020-21 it is increased revenue of .2 percent or about $27.3 million.
That’s not enough to cover the mandatory growth from inflation and caseload and does not take into account the additional $95 million needed for K-12 to maintain the budget stabilization factor at its current level. For context, the budget grew by 7 percent last year, and except for a small increase in reserves, was spent.
Way too much of it was spent on programs that require annual appropriations, meaning they are expected to be funded every year as opposed to one-time funding, like the $300 million from of the General Fund that went to roads last year.
Going forward, once we are back in session, you can bet many of the bills with fiscal notes that have been moving through committees will see their forward movement come to abrupt halts. Basically, any bill with a fiscal note of more than about $1.98 will likely be killed long before it reaches the governor’s desk.
Staying with the budget, but on a slightly different note, one of my bills this session transfers hazmat permitting from the Public Utilities Commission to Colorado Department of Transportation.
There are several good reasons for it and CDOT is prepared to handle it within their existing budget. What I discovered was how difficult it is to ensure that since the function was leaving PUC, that the PUC budget would be reduced by an appropriate amount.
The legislature doesn’t authorize employee positions, only funds, so reducing the employee count directly was not an option and we only budget for the next fiscal year, so reducing funding beyond that doesn’t work either.
We think we got it worked out making this one of the few bills that we will see under the Golden Dome that actually returns money to the general fund. Not a lot, but more than $1.98.
I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings here at the Capital. My office phone is 303-866-4877, mobile phone is 719-351-2121, or send an email to SenatorHisey@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter at @SenDennisHisey.