There’s a lot packed into Colorado’s $38.5 billion budget. Here is what you need to know about it. |

There’s a lot packed into Colorado’s $38.5 billion budget. Here is what you need to know about it.

A new helicopter to fight wildfires. A boost in state employee pay. More money for schools.

Jesse Paul
The Colorado Sun
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun
The Colorado Senate on the first day of the 2023 legislative session, Jan. 9, 2023, in the Capitol in Denver.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

No new federal COVID-19 dollars. Record inflation. State services stretched thin by a growing population.

Those are the circumstances under which the Colorado legislature’s Joint Budget Committee this year drafted the $38.5 billion state budget that takes effect July 1. 

“It’s not a sexy budget,” said state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, an Arvada Democrat who chairs the JBC. “It’s pretty conservative.”

Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Brighton Republican who sits on the JBC, called next year’s spending plan a “get ’er done budget.”

There are a handful of line items in next year’s budget that could be described as (somewhat) big-ticket items.

  • $26 million to purchase a second Sikorski S-70 Black Hawk helicopter that will be converted into a “Firehawk” that can battle wildland fires. The legislature set aside money two years ago so Colorado could buy its first Firehawk. The chopper still hasn’t been put in service, however. The budget also sets aside another $1.7 million to operate and staff the new helicopter.
  • $3.2 million for Senate Bill 13, which would help the Division of Fire Prevention and Control investigate the causes and origins of fires, with a priority on investigations into wildfires.
  • $15 million toward a new Office of School Safety in the Department of Public Safety that will house a variety of existing efforts to prevent and respond to tragedies at K-12 schools. That represents about $9 million in new spending that will help expand some of those existing initiatives. The Senate also passed an amendment allocating an additional $10 million in new spending for a grant program in the new office.
  • $221 million set aside for forthcoming property tax relief legislation, as well as other housing-related bills.
  • $115 million to implement Proposition FF, a ballot measure passed by voters in November that raises taxes on wealthy Coloradans to pay for universal free lunches in public schools. The money will be repaid to the general fund once the tax collections begin. 
  • $1.6 million that includes funding to hire 14 people to represent the state in Colorado River water negotiations.

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