PROMO 64J1 People - Jared Polis Colorado Governor Politician

Gov. Polis' budget proposal for next fiscal year increases spending, includes $1.3 billion stimulus package

Jared Polis - elected Governor of Colorado in November 2018.
Robert Davis

(The Center Square) – Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ budget proposal for the next fiscal year includes a one-time $1.3 billion stimulus package, a plan he said is “designed from the ground up” to help the state quickly recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The stimulus would direct payments of $375 to over 435,000 Coloradans who’ve experienced job loss because of the pandemic. It would also invest $220 million in public works and infrastructure projects, $160 million in expanding access to broadband internet to rural Coloradans, and $105 million to small businesses.

In all, the proposal would increase the state's total budget to $35.4 billion, up $3 billion from 2020, and bring the general fund up to $13 billion, an increase of 20%. Agencies would also see their budgets increase 7.3%.

Polis said the additional spending will combat forecasts by state economists showing budgetary deficits caused by COVID-19-related business closuresstay-at-home orders, and travel restrictions.

The additional funds will also go toward restoring cuts made to balance the 2020 budget, providing an economic stimulus, and increasing state reserves. However, he tied its success to dropping the state’s increasing COVID-19 case total.

To combat future COVID-19 cases, Polis’ proposal would spend $577 million on acquiring mass testing supplies and personal protective equipment. He lamented this spending as the result of a “failure of leadership in Washington, D.C.”

“Colorado’s economic strength depends on our strength in containing the pandemic and preventing additional loss of life, including economic damage because of consumer behavior or deterring tourism,” he said.

In the past three days, Colorado has added over 10,000 new cases of COVID-19. This is adding additional stress to the state’s hospital system, which recent reports indicate could see record hospitalizations by November 10.

These trends caused Polis to institute a statewide economic shutdown in March when he signed his stay-at-home order. By the time it was lifted a month later, the state was projected to lose over $3 billion in revenue.

In response, lawmakers cut over $1.3 billion from the state’s higher education budget and over $587,000 from K-12 funding before passing the 2020 budget. $123 million was also slashed from transportation.

State spending following the shutdown decimated its reserve fund. State law required the General Assembly to save 7.25% of the general fund in 2020, a total of $819 million. That rate is already set to increase to 8% in 2021. Polis’ proposal would bump it up to 10%.

The proposal also identified a savings package of over $420 million in savings by cutting underutilized programs, shifting funding of some programs from state to federal funds, and utilizing economies of scale.

“Investment in a strong and robust recovery, coupled with strong reserves is the best way to ease budget pressure in future years,” Polis said.