She did a good job explaining to me what the JBC intends to do to solve this crisis.
Thank you for contacting me regarding your concern over the budget cuts to higher education. All of us on the joint budget committee are also gravely concerned about this proposal and we will continue to try and find alternative funding sources to reduce the cuts to higher ed. I would like to take a moment to respond to the republican suggestions and to list the cuts we are making to all departments in the upcoming fiscal year.
First, the backbone of the republican cuts is an additional 100M cut to k-12 education. ( we have already cut elementary and secondary schools 150M). This additional 100M cut would come out of the constitutionaly required Amend. 23 funding passed by the voters, and passed from k -12 to higher ed. (I don’t believe this is doable due to constitutional requirements). It is indeed a sorry day when elementary education is pitted against higher ed, but here we are.
Second, 75M is proposed to require furloughs of state employees. Since one day of furlough results in 1.5M savings, we would have to close state offices more than 2 months to acheive this amount. They also proposed an additional 3% reduction is salaries on top of the furloughs and elimination in the state contribution to emplyees’ health insurance, resulting in an increase to the employee of $1550. to keep his/her insurance. Because of TABOR, these salary cuts are permanent and cannot be restored next year.
Other cuts included eliminating required classes for inmates to be paroled ( drug alcohol, mental health , etc) resulting in longer stays for inmates in prison, an expensive alternative to the release of inmates upon successful completion of these treatment programs. Recidivism is high when inmates do not have these classes, and we are currently seeing results in savings due to these classes. ( recidivism numbers are going down). Penny wise but pound foolish.
The legislature is looking at reduced sentencing as part of reduction of costs and you will see legislation soon on this issue. We simply cannot afford to keep as many individuals in prison anymore.
WHAT CUTS ARE CURRENTLY IN THE BUDGET PROPOSASL
We are closing a prison, eliminating expansion of another, and delaying further opening of a maximum security building in Canon City Prison Complex.
We are eliminating the senior homestead exemption. This is distastful to everyone, but at $91 M this year, $98M next year and $103M the year after that, we have to do this.
We have a hiring freeze.
Capitol construction projects are frozen.
Salary freezes on all employees and elimination of performance pay.
Cuts to k-12, as listed above. I am receiving as many angry, concerned emails from parents of children is school as I am about the higher ed cuts. You can imagine how they feel about the republican proposal to cut them more.
We have tapped into our rainy day fund, a 4% percent reserve, using 2% in 2008 and 2% in 2009.
We have followed the republican model used in the last economic downturn in 2003 of transfering cash funds to the general fund, although not as much as they did.
The joint budget committee has wrestled with the problem of limited revenues at a time we try to meet demands to maintain state services that citizens want. It is my belief that we need to take the question to the citizens: what are you willing to pay for?
I do wish to thank the business community for their interest in having an interim committee this summer to study the elimination of special interest sales tax exemptions and income tax credits or exemptions. It is time to establish a more rational tax policy in our State.
The process of balancing two budget years at the same time, without sufficient revenues to maintain services, has been a nightmare for all of us. I do have hope the conversations going on between Pinnocol , business leaders and legislators (of which I am not a part), will yield positive results. Balancing the budget is a lengthy process and we are not finished yet. I do appreciate your input and please keep this dialogue going. I am happy to hear from you. Also please know that we will continue to try and find funding sources for higher education, which we all value.