Voters May Decide Budget Fix

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Colorado Democratic leaders are considering letting voters decide how to solve a 234-(m)-million-dollar budget shortfall -- following two months of debate without a solution.

The Associated Press has learned that the first such plan of its kind in state history calls for lawmakers to draw up two six-month budgets, instead of a normal one-year spending plan.

The first budget would take effect July First. The bare-bones spending plan would cover only required items like Medicaid, public-school funding, prisons and other programs the state considers absolutely necessary.

The second budget would include optional items like Medicaid coverage, parks, and a college scholarship program. It would take effect January First.

Voters would be presented in November with a proposed fix for tax and spending limits enshrined in the state constitution. Voters would know going in that if the proposed changes to the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights failed, spending would remain at the bare-bones level.

The Basics:

HOW IT WOULD WORK: Lawmakers would divide the budget into two parts. The first six-month budget would go into effect July 1 and provide bare-bones spending for the entire fiscal year. The second six-month budget would go into effect on Jan. 1 and include programs not mandated by the state or federal government, programs that would not be funded unless voters agree to lessen the fiscal restraints imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.

PROGRAMS THAT WOULD BE FUNDED: Medicaid, public-school funding, prisons and other programs the state absolutely must provide.

PROGRAMS THAT WOULD BE LEFT UP TO VOTERS TO VOTERS TO DECIDE: Optional items such as additional Medicaid coverage, parks and a college scholarship program.

WHY LAWMAKERS SAY IT IS NECESSARY: Lawmakers say they are caught in a fiscal vise by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which limits the government's ability to tax and spend, and Amendment 23, which requires annual increases in public school spending. Lawmakers say without changes, they will be forced to cut $234 million from next year's budget.

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