I returned to the State Capitol in early May with my fellow members of the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) and began the painful task of dismantling months of hard work on the state’s budget. Crafting a balanced budget meant accepting the May 2020 updated forecast which indicates an unimaginable general fund revenue shortfall of nearly -3.3 billion dollars or a whopping 25% reduction from fiscal year 2019-20. To put things in perspective, this impact is nearly 2.5 times as large as the financial downturn in 2008 after the Great Recession.
Given these tough times, I’ve been asked if I regret my appointment in January to the JBC. It’s been a roller coaster ride, for sure. We’ve moved from a thriving economy where we had an opportunity to make greater investments in public schools, higher education and transportation to a barren fiscal landscape requiring significant cuts and reductions to essential services, safety net programs and so much more.
Yet as challenging as these reductions have been, I can’t imagine trading my seat at the table and giving up my chance to fight for our high country values and Western Slope priorities.
In committee meetings, I’ve been advocating for accessible health care by protecting funding for our community health clinics and preserving our second year of reinsurance savings. I raised my voice in support of getting our economy back up and running by maintaining funding for Colorado tourism, marketing for our agricultural industry, and maintaining rural economic development grants. We’re continuing our fight for climate action by maintaining investments in the public safety and welfare measures we passed for oil and gas development. And while we’ve made some difficult reductions to health and human services, we worked hard to preserve critically important funding for housing, food, child care, and other safety net assistance programs.
Our reductions to public schools and higher education have been the most painful. We combed through every department, leaving no stone unturned, all to try and protect our investments in education. And while Federal CARES Act money can not be used to backfill these reductions, I am pleased to see that local schools, colleges and universities are receiving this support to help them offset COVID19 impacts. Never before has it been more critical to find a sustainable, ongoing funding source for public education!
For a deeper dive on the proposed 2020-2021 Budget, check out this article from The Colorado Sun.