DENVER - A divided Senate gave final approval Thursday to the state's proposed $17.6 billion budget for next year.All but one Republican senator voted against the budget. Most GOP members argued that it was reckless to hire 1,300 new employees with a recession looming and not set money aside in a rainy day fund."It's like adding 1,300 state employees to the deck of the Titanic and we're headed toward an iceberg," said Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs. "But maybe we can offer them slushies after we hit."Democrats rejected the Republican lockdown on the budget as a political strategy that would backfire with voters and said the economic outlook isn't as dire as Republicans portrayed it. Sen. Moe Keller, D-Wheat Ridge, said that half of the new employees would be paid for with user fees and cash funds, rather than tax dollars. About 300 of them are new prison guards.Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said there is still expected to be at least $200 million left over in future budgets to pay for highway construction. He said the state should make investments in the future and wait to see if there are really economic "torpedoes" in the water before reacting out of fear."Damn the torpedoes," Morse said. "They will not keep us from making Colorado the best it can be as a place to live, as a place to learn, as a place to work, as a place to raise a family."Republican Sen. Steve Johnson, a member of the committee that developed the budget, voted for it and said Republicans should consider how cuts to the budget could hurt higher education and make it harder to attract businesses to the state."I think my party ought to be concerned about that," said Johnson, who is from Fort Collins, home to Colorado State University.Johnson said the budget made important changes such as paying for new judicial workers to speed up court cases and providing more help to the developmentally disabled. He said there are now more people on the waiting list for that program than there are people in it.
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