The 2022 state legislative session officially ended earlier this month, but local officials gathered Monday night to discuss some of the most important bills they may have passed this year.
Representative Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, led the state’s budgeting efforts as chair of the Joint Budget Committee. She said next fiscal year’s budget “adheres to (Colorado’s) values — supporting public education, protecting health care for low-income individuals and families, (and) protecting all of those services for those most in need.” ‘among us who are still trying to recover from the pandemic.”
In the budget, lawmakers reduced part of the budget stabilization factor, which is a tool created in 2010 that proportionally reduces the amount of total funding for each school district. The factor, which was a response to the 2008 recession, is cutting state aid to districts. In addition to reducing a portion of the budget stabilization factor, the state will also invest $80 million in special education services.
“I just spoke with a teacher (Monday) and I’m thrilled to hear that her district is giving educators a 9% raise,” McCluskie said. “We know that we are losing our teachers, our bus drivers, our food service workers – all of these wonderful people who serve our children in this great state, and we are losing them not only because of the challenges of working through the pandemic , but also because we simply do not provide the resources, the living wage, to these people so that they can live in the communities where they work.
The state has also approved several large investments in health care. One bill will overhaul the mandatory detention system for behavioral health patients, and another that will support patients during pregnancy and the first year of a baby’s life. Rep. Dylan Roberts, who represents Routt and Eagle counties, said in the near future he wants to continue making health care more affordable for Coloradans.
“During the last legislative session, we focused a lot of our health care on behavioral and mental health, which I think is very appropriate and necessary,” Roberts said. “So in my opinion, over the next few years, I think we need to monitor all of this work and make sure it’s been implemented and as impactful as intended, and then make changes based on that.”
Over the next two years, heads of state also aim to provide some relief from rising property taxes. Senate Bill 238 is expected to provide $700 million in property tax relief by reducing the assessed value of commercial properties by $30,000, lowering the assessed value of homes by $15,000 and changing rates assessment from 29% to 27.9% for commercial properties and from 6.95% to 6.765% for residential properties.
McCluskie said the average family homeowner will see $274 in property tax savings this year.
“I think the question is, what comes next?” McCluskie said. “As we deliver a two-year relief package to residential and commercial landlords, I think the real work needs to start now on how we plan to reform our approach to property tax.”
Federal pandemic relief funds have enabled several investments totaling tens of millions of dollars, Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail said. He added that the state, at this time, is unlikely to see that kind of surplus money anytime soon.
“Unfortunately, with restrictions on our budget like (the Taxpayer Bill of Rights), there aren’t always big bucks for those who come in,” Donovan said. “If we want good rural roads, we as a state have to figure out how to invest those dollars.”
He said there is usually a political conversation that surrounds the budget regarding how the state will get money to spend on transportation.
“The immediate question is what are you going to cut? he said. “It’s kind of the back and forth we have at the General Assembly year after year.”
If the state needs to spend significant dollars on something, he said lawmakers need to figure out where they’re going to cut the budget in order to make the project workable.