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Policy: Budgets & Deficits

5 Things to Know about the Colorado budget

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News,Business,Colorado,Budgets and Deficits

DENVER (AP) — The Colorado House approved a $23 billion budget Friday. The spending plan heads to the Senate for consideration next week. Here are 5 things to know about the budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

HOW BIG IS THE BUDGET?

The proposed budget is larger than the current budget year, but not by much. The budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, is about $21 billion.

The $23 billion spending plan includes federal money and other funds that state lawmakers don't control. That means most of the wrangling centers on the state's general fund, which is made up of tax revenue and is the pot lawmakers have more power over. The general-fund budget for the upcoming fiscal year is about $8.7 billion, compared to about $8.1 billion in the current year.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST SLICES OF THE PIE?

Traditionally, most of the state budget has gone to a few areas, like education and health care, and this year is no different. The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, which administers Medicaid, has a total budget of about $7.8 billion, but most of that is federal money. The department's share of the general-fund budget is about $2.2 billion.

K-12 education has nearly $5 billion in total funds, with about $3.3 billion of that coming from the general fund.

Corrections, higher education and human services also get huge chunks of the pie.

Because a lot of money is already spoken for, lawmakers end up fighting over a small percentage of the overall budget.

DOES THE BUDGET HAVE BIPARTISAN SUPPORT?

Only one Republican joined every Democrat in the House to pass the budget on a 37-27 vote. The Republican who voted yes was Rep. Cheri Gerou, a member of the budget-writing Joint Budget Committee.

Two years ago, almost every lawmaker voted yes for the budget as each party controlled one of the chambers. Last year, several Republicans still voted for the budget, even though Democrats had regained control of both chambers.

WHAT ARE LAWMAKERS SAYING?

Republicans have been critical of Democrats because most of the amendments GOP lawmakers proposed during debate Thursday were shot down. Those included several efforts to increase funding for roads and schools.

"The reality is we offered almost 40 amendments last night and almost to a tee they were voted down. It was predetermined that these were going to be voted down," said Rep. Brian DelGrosso, the Republican House leader.

Democrats say there's plenty in the budget to applaud.

There's an additional $100 million for colleges and universities for financial aid and to limit tuition increases. Per-pupil spending at public schools is increasing to keep pace with inflation and enrollment growth. Lawmakers are also increasing the state's budget reserves. That measure has bipartisan support.

"I think this budget gets us to a good place," said Democratic Rep. Jenise May, a Joint Budget Committee member. "We invested in higher education. We invested in the financial security of our state."

WHAT'S NEXT?

The budget goes to the Senate. The senators will debate the budget Thursday and take a final vote Friday. But that won't be the end. A conference committee will resolve changes between each chamber before sending the budget to the governor.

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