By James Anderson, Associated Press
A bipartisan conference committee restored funding for a teen survey that asks about drug use and added money to hire more oil and gas field inspectors in reaching a deal Thursday to balance Colorado’s $26.8 billion budget.
The Joint Budget Committee approved several amendments to align competing budget versions that had been passed earlier by the Democrat-led House and the Republican-led Senate. Both chambers must approve a reconciled budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 before sending it to the governor.
Committee members restored $745,000 to pay for the anonymous Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, which asks about drug use, sex habits and suicide.
They also allotted $750,000 to help fill nine vacant oil and gas well inspector and permitting positions and provided funds to provide the public information about Colorado’s new assisted suicide law.
Thanks to higher-than-expected forecasts for local school spending, the committee reduced the state’s share of K-12 funding without increasing a state debt to schools that has accumulated over the years. The panel also added nearly $80 million to a state K-12 education fund.
Committee members also:
- Budgeted more than $9 million to expand broadband access in rural areas;
- Rejected $4 million for research on medical marijuana;
- Allocated $1 million for historical renovation of the governor’s mansion;
- Made $750,000 available for in-state film promotion, down from $3 million currently;
- Added $15.3 million from marijuana tax money to pay for affordable housing programs for homeless people.
Lawmakers still hope to find funding for rural hospitals, which stand to lose more than $500 million in subsidies because of drastic state budget cuts that also affected transportation. The Joint Budget Committee began the whole process facing a $700 million shortfall.
A bill intended to restore hospital funding and issue transportation bonds without a tax hike still is pending in the Senate.