Lawmakers Agree On Budget Fix

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Colorado lawmakers have reached a tentative agreement with Governor Owens on a plan to end the state's budget crisis.

The plan calls for a suspension of tax surplus refunds and bonding for transportation. The agreement would expire at the end of five years.

Fort Collins Republican Senator Steve Johnson says the agreement would allow the state to rebound from three years of revenue shortfalls.

But G-O-P Senator Jim Dyer of Littleton says the compromise is unfair, because it doesn't address Amendment 23. The amendment requires annual education funding increases at a rate equal to inflation, plus one percent.

The budget crisis emerged as recession led to a decrease in tax revenues, and reduced the government's spending limit.

The plan would need the approval of voters in November.

Here are the highlights of the deal:

--For the next five years, all revenue collected by the state can be used to provide various services. That means there will be no taxpayer refunds when there is surplus cash in state coffers.

--In the sixth year, 2011, if there is revenue above the amount that the state can invest in services, the first 100 (m) million dollars will pay bonding obligations for construction and other needs, including funds for police and fire pensions, kindergarten through 12th grade school construction and transportation. The state also could opt to save the money.

--In 2011, the state can begin spending an amount equal to the highest revenue brought in during the first five years, plus adjustments for inflation and population growth.

--If there is enough excess revenue in 2011 and subsequent years, the state income tax will be reduced by 13-hundredths of a percent, to four-and-a-half percent. Excess revenue above that amount will be refunded to taxpayers.

--Beyond the sixth year, the state spending limit will be the limit from the previous year, plus inflation and population growth, unless the public votes to change it.