Gov. John Hickenlooper today signed Senate Bill 13-230 (the "FY 2013-2014 Long Bill") and thanked legislators for their bipartisan dedication to Colorado's values.
"After enduring a significant economic downturn, Colorado's economy is outperforming the nation's. Looking ahead, expected revenue is 12.6 percent or almost $1 billion lower when adjusted for population and inflation since FY 2007-08," Hickenlooper said in a letter to lawmakers. "Some of our recent recovery in revenue is one-time in nature and the budget plan for next year is appropriately prudent and forward-looking. Though many programs are seeing increases, we have also eliminated long-term liabilities, grown our reserve to five percent and ensured some of our new spending is on one-time items.
"The Long Bill reflects our shared commitment to meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents, to support the educational needs of our children, to promote economic development, to invest in critical infrastructure and to plan for the future. We are proud to note that the FY 2013-14 budget includes significant and meaningful enhancements to the areas of child welfare and mental health."
The next fiscal year's budget include these noteworthy items:
Protecting Colorado's most Vulnerable Residents -- This budget includes an increase of $13.5 million in total funds to provide essential services for an additional 765 people with developmental disabilities. This level of funding will eliminate the wait list for all children needing services through the Children's Extensive Services Medicaid waiver. Additionally, this budget includes $4.0 million in new funding for programs that assist our elderly Coloradans with needs such as meals and transportation.
Enhancements to our Mental Health System -- The budget includes $7.5 million in total funds to provide additional mental health community placements, a jail-based restore-to-competency program, and additional resources for school based mental health services. Funding of $19.8 million to establish a statewide mental health crisis system is included in a separate bill (SB 13-266).
Protecting Colorado's Children from Abuse and Neglect -- This budget includes an increase of $13.3 million in total funds for the Child Welfare system. These funds were added as part of the Governor's Keeping Kids Safe and Families Healthy 2.0 plan. The plan includes funding to implement and strengthen prevention and intervention services, improve public awareness about child abuse and neglect, enhance training and technology for child welfare professionals and to improve overall transparency in the system.
Support for K-12 and Higher Education -- Upon completion of the School Finance Act, we expect to increase funding for K-12 education by $210.2 million, which exceeds the amount required by inflation and enrollment. Average per pupil funding will grow by $171.80. We have sufficient funding to fund an additional 3,200 pre-school slots. In higher education, this budget adds General Fund appropriations of $31.0 million in direct support to the College Opportunity Fund stipends and $5.3 million in financial aid for students. In addition for higher education, the budget allocates almost $102 million for capital and controlled maintenance projects.
Promoting Economic Development -- This budget provides funding to continue the economic development initiatives that were expanded in FY 2012-13. This includes $2.9 million for new job creation incentives for companies relocating to our state, or for Colorado companies expanding their workforce. Also, the budget provides over $1.0 million to incentivize film, television, and media production activities that will result in direct expenditures in our local communities. In addition to shoring up existing efforts, the budget includes a $2.0 million increase for tourism promotion and the development of a branding platform that will be designed to attract tourists, businesses, capital and potential workers to Colorado.
Investing in critical infrastructure -- We appreciate the General Assembly's shared view that a significant amount of our current resources are likely one-time in nature. As such, the budget for FY 2013-14 sets aside $188.1 million for capital construction projects. This amount includes $44.9 million to perform nearly 70 discrete controlled maintenance projects and an additional $93.7 million for new construction and renovation projects involving State-owned buildings. Not only will these planned expenditures provide some much needed enhancements to our aging building infrastructure, they will also directly inject funds into Colorado's construction economy.
Planning for the future -- With this package of budget bills, the State's General Fund reserve will increase to 5.0 percent of total expenditures. This places nearly $80 million more in savings than required with the previous 4.0 percent reserve. The last two recessions caused revenue in the General Fund to decline by approximately 15% each time. This increase is a great first step to a reserve that better reflects the risks to the budget in a recession.