(Denver) – The Colorado House of Representatives passed a bipartisan, balanced state budget today that prevents deeper cuts to K-12 and higher education and restores a property tax exemption for older homeowners.
The final vote on HB12-1335 was 64-1, with a lone Republican holdout, Rep. Chris Holbert (R-Parker). The budget now goes to the Senate, which will make its own modifications, initiating a period of negotiations with the House before a final agreement is reached. The 2012-13 fiscal year begins July 1.
“Politics is compromise, and on a JBC with three Democrats and three Republican we got through the budget process without a lot of acrimony,” said Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder), the House Democrat on the Joint Budget Committee. “That doesn’t mean I’m thrilled with the result. We could have put more resources into education, the disabled and low-income seniors, but we couldn’t because the senior property tax exemption diverted so much funding.”
The debate was made easier by the state’s improving economic picture. With a rising economy, state revenues are projected to be nearly $200 million higher than previously estimated. The budget awards the largest shares of that money to the senior homestead property tax exemption and K-12 schools.
Democrats tried to get the Republicans to use part of the budget cushion to finally support some form of economic development and job creation. But the GOP shot down a handful of amendments to connect Coloradans to good jobs, and even prevented an effort by Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) to increase funding for the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade, which offers incentives to attract businesses and jobs to Colorado.
The Republicans also stripped out resources to protect air and water quality from oil and gas drilling.
Democrats scored some victories, including Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino’s motion to overturn Rep. Spencer Swalm’s amendment defunding the Office of Consumer Counsel, which advocates for lower utility rates for consumers. The House was unanimous, including even Rep. Swalm (R-Centennial), in voting to kill the amendment.
Rep. Daniel Kagan (D-Englewood) was able to secure an additional $200,000 for grants for affordable housing, and Rep. Edward Vigil (D-Fort Garland) got an extra $100,000 to reimburse water commissioners for their travel expenses.
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