Only five weeks left! This past week was budget week in the Senate. The Senate took up the Long Bill and 32 orbital bills that make statutory changes needed to balance the budget. After passing Senate Appropriations on Tuesday these bills were debated on second reading on Wednesday. Unlike other bills, amendments to the Long Bill are due the day before it is heard on second reading. This year there were 50 amendments drafted. None of the amendments impacted any of the State Patrol decision items approved by the JBC which include the following:
• $7.3 million to bring trooper salaries in line with the Trooper Pay Statute and implement a graduated pay system. (This is in addition to the across-the-board 5% salary increase all state employees will receive next year.)
• $7.7 million and 10.0 FTE to augment the capacity of the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority and the existing multi-jurisdictional task forces to combat auto theft.
• $384,421 and 5.5 FTE to manage a steady increase in records request and to prepare for the full roll-out of body-worn cameras.
• $500,000 to secure a dining services contract for the CSP Academy due to the recent closure and transfer of DOC and the Colorado Correctional Center out of Camp George West.
• $194,151 and 1.8 FTE to allow the Communications Branch to effectively manage and support the estimated $28 million of radio, computer, wireless technology assets, contracts, and program budgets, included in the approved decision item for FY 2022-23.
During second reading the Senate adopted 17 amendments to the Long Bill spending almost an additional $85 million. These amendments included the following:
• $30.6 million to fully compensate PERA for the missed payment in 2020.
• $35 million for the community crime victims grant program.
• $10 million for a behavioral health care professional matching grant program.
• $4 million for a school counselor corps grant program.
• $1 million for Tony Grampas Youth Services Program funding.
• $1 million for family planning services.
• $356,701 for the Yuma School District to pay for replacing Indian mascot imagery.
Since the JBC introduced a balanced budget, the budget is now out of whack by just under $85 million of General Fund. However, the process is only about one-third of the way over. Today, the Long Bill and the orbital bills will be heard in the House Appropriations Committee where it is customary for all the Senate amendments to be stripped off. Then likely tomorrow, the Democrat and Republican caucuses will then meet separately to go over the budget. Representatives will then have a chance to draft amendments before the House hears the bills on second reading on Wednesday or Thursday. After the budget clears the House this week, the JBC will spend next week as a conference committee and decide which, if any, of the amendments adopted by the Senate and House will stay on as part of the final bill. The House and Senate will have to adopt the conference committee report and repass the bills.
So far, there have been 540 bills introduced – 279 in the House and 261 in the Senate. Only 35 days until the General Assembly is required to adjourn sine die.