Opinion | Dylan Roberts: A state budget that meets our needs￼
I am proud to share that the Colorado Senate and House just passed our annual state budget — and it is one that is balanced, supported by both parties and, most importantly, addresses some of our communities’ most pressing needs.
Every year, the budget process presents an opportunity for members to come to the table to discuss their district’s priorities and set a course for the entire state. This year’s process also required more conservative budgeting due to the absence of federal COVID-19 dollars, which heavily supplemented state spending in years past.
With these challenges in effect, I am pleased that we were still able to reach an agreement on a budget that serves Colorado well and prioritizes the “nuts and bolts” of responsible governance. Here are just a few highlights:
Investing in Pre-K-12 Education
Every child deserves a quality education that opens up opportunities for their future, and every family deserves to send their child to a school feeling confident they have the resources to help them succeed. Further, our district loses too many talented, dedicated teachers because they are not paid competitive, livable salaries.
That’s why I am thrilled that our budget increases K-12 education funding by $485 million, which will amount to $900 more per pupil in the coming year. This will allow our districts to address urgent needs, including increasing teacher pay, hiring essential support staff, and updating school facilities and materials.
The budget also provides the money needed to implement the new Universal Preschool program, which will provide free preschool for every 4- and 5-year-old in Colorado starting this fall. This will not only save families $6,000 per year on child care but will buttress our K-12 system by setting up students for success at a formative age.
Healthier and safer communities
Just as our K-12 education system has been impacted by underfunding, our health care system has also suffered. With an increasing number of individuals signing up for Medicaid (the state and federal health insurance option for low-income people) and severe provider shortages, our health care system is facing serious gaps in meeting needs. That’s why I’m proud that our budget invests in strengthening Medicaid and funding a badly needed 3% pay increase for our doctors, nurses and other health care providers.
Further, recognizing that public health and public safety go hand in hand, our budget makes a significant investment in crime prevention. The budget provides $5 million for the new Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Program and $7 million increase for school safety programs. No Coloradan should have their livelihood uprooted by an act of violence or theft, and I’m proud of this important next step in making our communities safer.
Investing in affordable housing
This year, we’re continuing to make strides in ensuring every Coloradan has an affordable and accessible place to live. Recognizing that our housing market is still hundreds of thousands of units short, I am thrilled that our budget invests an additional $221 million toward increasing our housing stock
This includes providing relief on property taxes, implementing Proposition 123 and incentivizing public-private partnerships for housing development via my bill, SB23-001.
Protecting our water future and combating wildfire
As our state experiences unprecedented drought, coupled with growing demands on the Colorado River, we must do more to conserve water to meet agricultural and consumer needs. That’s why I’m proud that our budget invests significantly in water conservation board projects and even allocates over $25 million to fund Colorado’s water plan and strengthen our position in Colorado River negotiations.
I’m also thrilled that our budget dedicates substantial resources toward fighting wildfires, which pose an extreme threat to land and life on the Western Slope. The budget allocates funds to purchase a second Firehawk helicopter to fight wildland fires and assist the Division of Fire Prevention and Control in investigating wildfires.
Balanced and fiscally responsible
Finally, this year’s budget is balanced — creating no deficit for the state. In addition to funding our state’s priorities, we were also able to add significant funds to our state’s reserves, which will help secure our financial security in the years ahead.
And much more
Even though the legislature has already passed our annual state budget, we are still negotiating how to use the remaining funds for other priorities. While there’s much more work to do to carry my remaining bills to the finish line, I’m hopeful we’ll have even more exciting news to report at the end of our legislative session.
Please continue to reach out with your ideas, feedback and questions. I invite you to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or on my cell at 970-846-3054.
Dylan Roberts is the state Senator for Clear Creek, Eagle, Garfield, Gilpin, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties.
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