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Colo. lawmakers agree on $30.5 billion state budget

Pueblo Chieftain - 4/6/2019

April 05-- Apr. 5--Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have settled on a $30.5 billion state budget for the coming year that includes $300 million for transportation projects, keeps tuition flat at state colleges and universities, and $336 million for public schools.

There are some differences between the House and Senate versions to be worked out in conference.

Among some of agreed-upon features are a 3-percent pay raise for state employees, $120 million increase for colleges and universities to keep student tuition flat; and $185 million to begin offering full-day kindergarten at all public schools.

Full-day kindergarten was a priority for Gov. Jared Polis in his campaign last year.

For Southern Colorado, the budget also includes:

--$5 million to add 42 inpatient psychiatric beds at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.

--$15.4 million for more mental-health restoration services.

Both are part of the state's effort to end a long-running federal lawsuit against the Department of Human Services over the number of county jail inmates awaiting mental health treatment at CMHIP and other facilities.

Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo and vice chairman of the Joint Budget Committee, called the $30.5 billion spending plan a bipartisan budget that makes needed investments in public eduction and transportation.

While Republicans are in the minority in both chambers, they pushed for more funding for transportation projects in the new budget and a bipartisan agreement was reached to add $70 million, bringing the total transportation increase to $300 million.

There were complaints about the budget. The Colorado Education Association, the largest state teachers union, said lawmakers had short-changed public schools by $23 million and will push per-pupil funding well below the national average.



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