The Colorado budget for 2021-22 is in the books.
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed Senate Bill 21-205, also known as “the long bill,” which details a $34.1 billion budget for the state starting July 1, when the fiscal year begins.
The main story of the budget is the extraordinary shift it made from a condition of scarcity to one of abundance.
“What a difference a year can make, compared to where we were at this time last year and having to propose a budget that was $3 billion less than it was the year before,” Democratic Sen. Dominick Moreno, chair of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, said at the state Capitol during the ceremony at which Polis signed the long bill.
Lawmakers last year made $3 billion in cuts, largely to K-12 and higher education, and health care, in response to pandemic-related economic wreckage. But recent state economic forecasts demonstrated that lawmakers would have much more revenue to work with than they initially expected. The 2021-22 budget will feature an 11% increase in spending over the current year. The turnaround was primarily due to strong income and sales tax collections.
Moreno noted that the new budget restores money to K-12 and higher education spending.
“There is so much good in this budget that will help Colorado recover, that will prioritize communities that were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and set Colorado onto a more fiscally sustainable future,” he said, adding, “This is one of the best budgets we’ve produced.”
Polis said the long bill also returns money to health care spending.
“This is the culmination of a yearlong process,” Polis said. “And it’s always hard, but this is the hardest that it’s ever been, because of the changing numbers and the enormous swings, thankfully for the better, in projections and numbers.”
The budget brings general fund reserves to 13.4% for 2021-22 and 15% for 2022-23, Polis said.
“We have the highest state reserves since it’s ever been recorded, which goes back to 1985,” Polis said, adding later that SB-205 is “the very best long bill we’ve ever had, amidst all that uncertainty.”
Republican Sen. Bob Rankin, a member of the JBC, spoke during the ceremony, and he attested to a spirit of bipartisanship in the crafting of the budget.
“There’s a long history and tradition over on the Joint Budget Committee to put aside partisanship and work for the people of Colorado,” Rankin said. “There’s never been a time where that was more important than the last two budgets, and, believe me, I can’t thank my colleagues from the majority party enough or describe to you how important that was and what a privilege it was to work with them.”