State budget number still up in the air as legislators refuse to compromise

The Senate pulled the plug on the struggling HJR 1007, leaving the General Assembly out of compliance with state law and the Joint Budget Committee with no consensus revenue projection by which to budget.

Republicans said the Democratic move to adhere to the Senate’s position on the bill does portend at least one thing, a rocky road as budget decisions are voted on later this session.

“We set up to go to conference committee and for reasons unknown to me the House decided not to even talk about this but just to adhere to their position which leaves us where we are today,” Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said in front of the Senate today. “I disagree, as I said, with just arbitrarily reducing the amount, but I did ask the speaker to tell me what he was thinking about how he was going to make those $200 million in cuts. I never heard back from him on that.”

The normally benign resolution that provides the Joint Budget Committee with the General Assembly’s best prediction on revenue projections first erupted in controversy after Republicans amended the bill to reduce the economic forecast of the non-partisan Legislative Council by 2.7 percent.

The Senate, in turn, rejected the House version of the bill, choosing to stick to the predictions of the Legislative Council and adding that extra funds coming in over the prediction should be used to backfill expected cuts to K-12 education. It was a move Republicans in the House did not accept.

The House initially agreed to send the bill to a conference committee to resolve the difference between the two bills. Then House Republicans instead decided to adhere to their own position and dissolve the committee yesterday. Today, Democrats in the Senate chose to adhere to their own bill as well. As no resolution can be met on either version of the bill, the life of HJR 1007 ended with the strike of the Senate Gavel.

Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, refuted Morse’s comments that to decide on cuts before deciding on a projected revenue amount was antithetical to the purpose of the resolution. “We are not choosing a result here, we are choosing an economic projection. We made a mistake and now we are facing the consequences,” Mitchell said.

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, who was to sit on the Senate’s side of the conference committee to negotiate the resolution, said he would likely vote to adhere to the Senate’s position but was disappointed that the more conservative budget value in the House version of the bill was not being used.

Other Republicans said they were not interested in adhering to the Democratic Senate’s position and questioned what would occur further down the line when very real numbers and jobs were at stake during budget negotiations.

“This bill is ultimately about Republicans hoping that this body will position itself to spend less. The contrast is remarkable in light of the last four years,” Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp said. “You continue to spend more even before it has come through the door.”

“There is no way that I am going to vote for this resolution or for this motion,” Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R- Berthoud, said. “Think about it, if we can’t sort this out, I see little prospect for a budget later on in the year.”

Morse said, in response to Republican calls to use the Republican controlled House version of the bill, that he was unwilling to cut an extra 3,200 teaching jobs because of an arbitrary figure.

“That 1.1 billion dollars is already going to probably result in a cut to education of $3 million to $5 million already. I am just not willing to make it five to seven when our economists don’t say we need to do that.”

He said if in March they change that forecast to a lower projection then those cuts will be made.

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Joseph Boven

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