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Colorado Senate approves state budget totaling over $36B

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Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – The Colorado Senate Thursday approved the state’s budget totaling $36.4 billion for the next fiscal year. 

The budget includes significant increased investments in public schools, behavioral health, housing, infrastructure, and public safety. The budget needs to be approved again by the House of Representatives because of changes made by the upper chamber.

“This budget strikes an important balance between meeting the urgent needs of our state and prudently setting the state up for financial security for years to come,” said Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, who serves as vice chair of the Joint Budget Committee, which is responsible for writing the budget. 

One of the largest investments made in the budget is for K-12 education, which lawmakers appropriated more than $300 million for in 2023. Lawmakers say the spending is expected to generate an additional $569 in per-pupil funding and help spur hiring to reduce overall classroom sizes. 

Lawmakers also eliminated a $250 million budget stabilization factor that was added during the pandemic.

The budget also appropriates nearly $30 million to help pregnant women enroll in the Child Health Plan Plus, which could reduce their overall cost of care. 

It also directs more than $50 million that was approved last year under Senate Bill 21-260 to be spent on improving road conditions and creating more multimodal transportation options. 

“This budget will help support our families, provide for our communities, and move Colorado forward,” said Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada.

The Senate GOP pointed out in a press release Thursday that three of their proposed amendments to the bill were passed, including one for the stabilization factor, as well as amendments to raise Colorado State Patrol pay and fund a school bus safety grant program.

"During yesterday’s debate on the bill, Republicans fought for numerous budget amendments aimed at making Colorado more affordable, expanding educational opportunities, and prioritizing public safety; many of which were killed by Democrats," the Senate GOP said.