State Faces Unprecedented Budget Cuts
Earlier this week, staff for the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) submitted recommendations for potential budget cuts in light of the economic downturn that has accompanied the coronavirus pandemic. While the legislature is awaiting an updated economic forecast on May 12, it is widely speculated that the state will need to make cuts upwards of $3 billion in order to pass a balanced budget by the end of fiscal year on June 30. This budget outlook is in stark contrast to the forecast given in December when it was estimated that the state would have a surplus of roughly $800 million, an amount that would have triggered TABOR tax rebates.
JBC staff have the daunting task of determining possible reductions in funding and services across a variety of government sectors. Staff have been asked by budget writers to put forward recommendations for what could be reduced or even eliminated from all state agencies. Health programs such as the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), family planning, and the more recent, but successful reinsurance program have all been put on the table for either reductions or elimination. Critical programs that help our youngest children like early intervention, the first-in-the-nation Child Support Pass Through initiative, and even the Colorado Preschool Program and full-day kindergarten have all been put forth as potential targets for cuts. And numerous public education initiatives have been recommended for budget cuts, including the School Lunch Protection program and several teacher retention and recruitment tools like the Educator Loan Forgiveness program. It has even been suggested that the K-12 Budget Stabilization Factor could be increased, which would result in even deeper cuts for schools and students.
The Children’s Campaign and our partners have worked on and advocated in support of these programs and many others for years because they significantly improve the lives of Colorado’s children, and it is not easy to see these cuts being proposed. Before any official action is taken, the JBC and their fellow legislators will receive more information from the May 12 economic update, the Governor’s Office and state agencies, and advocates like the Campaign and other community voices. We are all faced with extremely hard, near impossible choices. While difficult decisions will need to be made, we have an obligation along with our partners to advocate for as little harm as possible for children and families, especially for those that have faced the most barriers to success. And if/when cuts do need to be made, we will work to ensure those are done equitably across all program areas. We will continue to analyze the situation before us, seek community input, and advocate as best we can with the JBC and other legislators for best path forward for our state’s families. Please continue to check back with us as we all get a clearer picture of what lies ahead.