Capitol Update: 2020 Session finally ends with progress for kids and families balanced with painful budget cuts

Written by: Children's Campaign
Date Posted: June 19, 2020

The Colorado General Assembly finally ended its interrupted 2020 regular session this week, and we are reflecting on several incredible pieces of legislation that will support Colorado kids and families. This good news is balanced out however by really painful budget cuts, especially to K-12 education, which will have an impact on Colorado kids immediately—and for years to come.

We thank legislators for their tireless work this session, especially for prioritizing children when there appeared to be no possible way to do so. We’re also so grateful to all the advocates who spoke up, often with short notice, by submitting testimony and calling on legislators to share their priorities. All of you made a big difference for kids.

This week, several significant priorities for kids are headed to the governor for his signature. Here are a few highlights, as well as updates on which areas of the state budget that impact kids and families were cut or protected. As always, visit our full Capitol Updates page for all the details and actions on specific bills.

Cigarette Tobacco And Nicotine Products Tax to Support Health and Early Childhood Education Programs (Caraveo & McCluskie/Fileds & Moreno)

This bill refers a measure to voters on this year’s November ballot that would raise taxes on cigarettes, tobacco and, for the first time, apply a tax on nicotine vaping products. In the first two and a half years, the resulting revenue would provide relief to state budget cuts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including investments in rural schools and the State Education Fund. After that initial period, the revenue would be devoted to nicotine education and cessation programs and toward giving every child in Colorado access to early childhood education. From year one forward, funding would also be provided to existing recipients of Amendment 35 revenue to offset decreased revenue the results from the new tax. The bill received bipartisan support in both chambers and now heads to the Governor’s desk for signature.  Read more about this bill and its journey through the legislature, here.

Public School Finance (Becker / Todd)

Passed as a bill each year separate from the budget, the School Finance Act (SFA) sets funding levels for Colorado’s 178 school districts for next school year. This year’s SFA is longer than usual because it incorporates several changes that were necessary because of the COVID crisis. Because of lower state revenues, schools will see about a 5 percent per pupil funding cut. Other provisions include changes to addresses a structural inequity in Colorado’s property tax system and interprets previous reductions to mill levies that led to this structural inequity as made in error. The SFA takes corrective action to implement a Supreme Court ruling (Mesa County Board of Commissioners v. State of Colorado) and more. Read more about this bill and its journey through the legislature, here.

Repeal Property Tax Assessment Rates (Tate & Hansen / Esgar & Soper)

This concurrent resolution submits a question to voters to repeal the Gallagher Amendment from the state Constitution, including the non-residential assessment rate of 29 percent, the calculation of the target percentage (45 percent of property tax revenue from residential property, 55 percent from non-residential property), and the requirement that the residential assessment rate be set to achieve the target percentage. Over time, the measure is expected to result in higher property tax revenue for local governments and reduce the state aid requirement for school finance. The measure will be on the 2020 ballot. To read more about this bill and its passage through the legislature, here.

Adjust Tax Expenditures for State Education Fund (Sirota & Gray/ Moreno & Hansen)

This bill would close or means-test certain tax deductions that overwhelmingly benefit wealthy individuals and wealthy businesses, generating an estimated $180 million in revenue for the state. The bill would also expand the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 10 percent to 15 percent of the federal credit beginning in 2022 and make the state EITC immediately accessible to families who file tax returns using an ITIN number. The remaining funds would go to the State Education Fund. To read more about this bill and it’s passage through the legislature, click here.

Results of our budget priorities we set when the session reconvened after the pandemic started:

  • Children’s Basic Health Plan (CHP+): The Joint Budget Committee rejected any cuts to CHP+.
  • Colorado Preschool Program: No changes to slots funded, although per-child funding will be reduced with the final per pupil revenue figure is finalized.
  • Full-day kindergarten: No changes to full-day kindergarten funding.
  • Preserve Smart Start (Breakfast after the Bell) and recent expansions of the Child Nutrition Lunch Protection Act: No cuts to Smart Start or school lunch program expansions of recent years.
  • Family Planning Program: $0.7M reduction (15%) cut to this line item.
  • Child support pass-through policy for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: $321K reduction. A $321K general fund appropriation level will allow the program to remain solvent and provide support to some the most vulnerable families in Colorado.
  • Early intervention: No cuts to this year. The appropriation to CDHS will be reduced by $1.7M in general fund for FY20-21, eliminating projected caseload growth for next year.
  • Family Resource Centers: Joint Budget Committee reduced line item by $528K from $1.3M, but kept additional funding.
  • Dental Services in Medicaid: The benefit cap will be reduced from $1,500 per year to $1,000 per year once it is able to make that change (when the disaster declaration is lifted and the current maintenance of effort requirements expire).
  • Tony Grampsas Youth Services: Proposed $1.5M cut was reduced to $750,000 cut.

We’ll have more updates and details on these results in the weeks ahead.

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About Children's Campaign

The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization committed since 1985 to realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. We advocate for the development and implementation of data-driven public policies that improve child wellbeing in health, education and early childhood. We do this by providing Coloradans with trusted data and research on child wellbeing and organizing an extensive state-wide network of dedicated child advocates. For more information, please visit www.coloradokids.org.