I'd still like to see he real plan for this above and beyond putting money into D.O.C
Gov. Bill Ritter told lawmakers Thursday that he won't hit up Colorado voters for more than one tax increase next year, pledging to settle on a single priority.
"If we go to the ballot on anything in the state, it should be one thing," he said.
Topping the list now are higher education, transportation and health care. Ritter is awaiting advice from blue-ribbon panels studying each of those issues.
Lawmakers on the Joint Budget Committee questioned Ritter about spending for higher education, prisons and health care for children as he presented his $18 billion budget proposal, an increase of $972 million over this year.
Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, predicted the state will have to build at least one more prison in the next few years to keep up with the inmate population.
Ritter's spending plan includes the lowest increase for prisons in years and instead pours $5.9 million into programs aimed at reducing recidivism.
The governor said he would monitor the need for more prison beds, but "for right now, our big emphasis is really on reducing recidivism."
Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, questioned whether there was enough money devoted to people with developmental disabilities. The waiting list for some state services for the developmentally disabled is 15 years long.
"I think we ought to keep the promises we've made to people already," Johnson said.
Ritter said it was a $40 million problem and that money would have to come from "somewhere else" in the budget.
The governor's proposal calls for covering an additional 14,000 kids under the state health care program, plus a Medicaid increase to help immunize more children.
The committee will consider the governor's spending proposal and hold weeks of budget hearings before the legislature approves a final budget next spring.
Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, jokingly reminded Ritter that years ago, the chairman of the budget committee ceremoniously dropped the governor's spending proposal in the trash.
"Thank you for not doing that," Ritter said.
Jennifer Brown: 303-954-1593 or jenbrown@d
The Denver Post