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Senate passes budget, school bills

The bipartisan budget package moved out of the Senate on schedule Monday morning with large majorities on individual bills, but some senators couldn’t resist some final thoughts.

The long appropriations measure, Senate Bill 11-209, passed 30-5, with two Democrats and three Republicans voting no. The last last few legislative sessions, when Democrats controlled both houses and the budget, Republicans typically voted no.

The 2011-12 school finance measure, Senate Bill 11-230, passed 29-6. All the no votes were cast by Democrats: Morgan Carroll of Aurora, Joyce Foster of Denver, Lucia Guzman of Denver, Rollie Heath of Boulder, Evie Hudak of Westminster and Gail Schwartz of Snowmass.

The combined effect of the two bills is to cut total program spending for the state’s schools by $250 million.

That represents an average cut of 4.6 percent. Total program spending, the combination of state and local funds used to pay for basic school operations, would drop from $5.44 billion this year to about $5.15 billion in 2011-12. Average per-pupil funding would drop from $6,823 to $6,439.

The half hour of discussion mirrored the comments made during preliminary consideration last Friday, with Heath and Hudak descrying the bill while some conservative Republicans argued that further savings can be made in education spending.

Bacon, who sponsored the finance bill but lamented having to do so, complained that the U.S. and Colorado are trying to run education systems “on the cheap.”

The two bills and several related measures move to the House.

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