Schools, roads saved in proposed balanced budget

Posted at 7:31 PM, Mar 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-25 13:12:09-04

Colorado's Joint Budget Committee has balanced the budget for 2016-17.

The budget now goes before the House and Senate for potential tweaks and final approval.
-- Proposed budget doesn't affect K-12 and higher education -- 
Despite threats of cuts to K-12 and higher education, the budget in front of lawmakers has no cuts to either. In fact, K-12 is poised to receive $7,424 per student, a $111 increase from this current budget.
K-12 education funding also benefited from higher than expected marijuana tax revenue.
The budget also calls for about $150 million to the Colorado Department of Transportation. That money would likely be used toward the reconstruction of I-70 near the Denver Coliseum.
Colleges and universities would avoid any cuts in this proposed budget. During his State of the State address in January, the Governor said his proposed budget came with a $20 million dollar higher education cut.
-- Limiting Hospital Provider Fee, preventing TABOR refund -- 
The Joint Budget Committee (JBC), made up of three Republican lawmakers and three Democratic lawmakers from both the House and the Senate, also tweaked the Hospital Provider Fee.
Democratic lawmakers and the Governor are still trying to come to a compromise with Republicans to remove the hospital provider fee from the budget calculations and make it its own enterprise to avoid having count against our state budget. 
The Hospital Provide Fee works by having hospitals pay into a fund collected by the state, based on the number of patients hospitals receive. The federal government then matches that money, dollar-for-dollar. The money is then reimbursed back to the hospitals. That equation currently counts toward the state budget, resulting in potential TABOR refunds. Democratic lawmakers and the Governor want to take the hospital provider fee out of the equation, since the state does not keep any of the revenue.
The Joint Budget Committee did the math and determined how much the hospital provider fee causes the state to be over the TABOR limit. For the 2016-17 budget, the JBC reduced the amount hospitals will be allowed to contribute to the fund by $73 million, thus preventing the overage resulting in TABOR refunds.
By doing that, education and transportation can receive the funding the JBC has proposed.
This year, residents can expect at TABOR refund between $13-41, depending on your tax bracket. 
-- Lawmakers still debate taking Hospital Provider Fee out of budget --
According to JBC member, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, the forecast for 2017-18 calls for no money for transportation, so he would still like to see the hospital provider fee turned into an enterprise.
Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, also a JBC member, said that as far as he is concerned there is no need to adjust the hospital provider fee, especially based on the compromises made on this budget.
The proposed balanced budget will be introduced in the House on Monday.


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