Allocation for Lower North Fork Fire Victims included in initial budget approved by State Senate

DENVER - An amendment allocating $2,835,738 from the state's general fund was approved by the State Senate Wednesday as the Democrat-controlled legislative body gave initial approval to the overall budget plan.

In the amendment to the budget bill, the expenditure is titled, "Additional Payments for North Fork Fire Negligence Claims Pursuant to H.B. 12-1361."

House Bill 12-1361 allowed for the victims to go through a claims process that involved the state claims board instead of going through court. It also opened the possibility of allowing payments above the state's statutory liability limit.

While the amendment for the fire allocation was sponsored by a Republican, the State Senate's initial approval of the overall budget plan came without Republican support. The minority party said they wouldn't be on board with the spending package because they're upset with Democratic legislation this year.

Republican Sen. Kent Lambert, one of the GOP budget writers, cited the Democrats' bills this year placing new restrictions on firearms as one reason he will oppose the budget.

Republicans also argued spending is growing too much and wanted across-the-board cuts to state departments.

The improving economy gave Colorado lawmakers the power to restore budget cuts from recent years, and Democrats on Wednesday highlighted the additional funding that's going to public schools and colleges next year.

The general fund budget of $8.2 billion gets a final Senate vote Thursday, before heading to the House.

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