Colorado House passes $34.1 billion state budget

Colorado’s $34.1 billion state budget passed the House of Representatives on Thursday morning, and is now just a couple steps from being signed into law.

The budget, SB21-205, calls for close to $4 billion more spending in the 2021-22 fiscal year than was allocated for the current fiscal year, which ends in June. That’s a reflection of the state’s economy unexpectedly bouncing back from the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the budget passed the Senate last week 32-1 with relatively little disagreement overall, the House was a different story.

Republican members spent hours on Wednesday bringing dozens of amendments that never had a chance to pass due to Democrats’ hold over the chamber. But it gave the GOP an opportunity to explain how it believes the state should fund transportation and school security, among other priorities.

GOP Rep. Rod Bockenfeld of Watkins said he refused to “bow” to the members of the bipartisan Joint Budget Committee, which largely controls state spending. Another Republican, Rep. Ron Hanks of Florence, said lawmakers should humble themselves considering the pandemic.

“OK, there was good work done, I understand that,” he said. “While we have done great things and our budget is sound and healthy, there’s a lot of people who don’t have a budget at all because their business is gone.”

House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar of Pueblo told displeased Republicans to get involved earlier in the months-long budget cycle, instead of complaining at length toward the end of the process.

The only House Republican to vote for the budget on Thursday was Minority Leader Hugh McKean of Loveland.

Lawmakers in the Senate and on the budget committee will certify the budget in the coming days (with some likely changes), and send it to Gov. Jared Polis by the end of the month. It will go into effect July 1.

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