Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter on Friday signed into law a $19.2 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, a document drawn up only after closing a roughly $1.4 billion two-year budget deficit and calling upon businesses to make several sacrifices to help the state’s fiscal situation.
The budget, though reduced drastically from what Ritter proposed in November, still protects higher education, health care and human services, emphasized the Democratic governor and members of the Joint Budget Committee at a news conference.
But it is balanced as required under state law and was passed with the most bipartisan agreement, at least among House members, that the Legislature has seen in several years, its authors said.
“It’s been a rough year ... It’s been like trying to carry water in a sieve, and we had to make a lot of decisions quickly,” said Rep. Jack Pommer, a Boulder Democrat and vice chairman of the Joint Budget Committee. “All in all, it was just about the best we could do. Let’s hope next year is a little better.”
The budget balance was reached partially by cutting some $200 million in state services, pulled from departments ranging from higher education to natural resources.
Sen. Moe Keller, a Wheat Ridge Democrat and JBC chairwoman, said the Department of Corrections was hardest hit after the state closed a women’s prison and delayed the opening of another long-planned maximum-security facility while making department workers take pay cuts.