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Dems have futile fun with budget

The Colorado House spent more than eight hours Wednesday afternoon and evening debating proposed amendments to the state’s 2012-13 state budget, House Bill 12-1335.

As is traditional, the minority party – in this case the Democrats – took up a lot of time proposing doomed amendments, mostly to make political points. (House Democratic and Republican staffers conducted a furious Twitter war during the debate, praising or denigrating individual amendments.)

Democrats unsuccessfully proposed amendments to take money from the state prisons budget and use it to fund the proposed new early childhood literacy program or to pay for Colorado Preschool Program slots.

Attempting something different, Democrats tried to dip into about $6.4 million proposed for development of new state social studies and science tests to pay for various state economic development programs. Several variations of that amendment were defeated.

Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, went to the microphone with an amendment she didn’t discuss, because she quickly withdrew it. But the move gave her time to have two slides displayed on the big screen at the front of the chamber. One showed growth in staff at the Department of Education and the other showed declines in school funding, to make her point about school budget cuts and a growing CDE bureaucracy.

Assistant Majority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, did win passage of an amendment that would take $4.2 million from prison maintenance funding and put it into state support for full-day kindergarten programs.

Even though amendments are defeated during preliminary consideration, many of them come up again as a formality at the end of the process, forcing recorded votes, which are often used later in campaign literature. The bill passed after the second round of amendments was defeated.

The budget bill proposes nearly $20 billion in total state spending next year, including about $8 billion from the tax-supported general fund, which is what the legislature controls. The rest of the budget includes federal funds and taxes and fees that are dedicated by law to specific uses.

Once the House gives the bill final approval later this week, the whole process gets repeated in the Senate, where Republicans are in the minority so may play the same role Democrats did in the House. After the Senate finishes its work, the Joint Budget Committee – which wrote the bill in the first place – will iron out the differences between the houses.

In other action

The Senate gave final approval to House Bill 12-1080, which changes Adams State College to Adams State University. The legislature earlier passed a bill to make Metro State a university, and another measure to upgrade Western State College is pending.

The Senate State Affairs Committee voted 3-2 to pass Senate Concurrent Resolution 12-002, which proposes to create a new state lottery game, the net proceeds of which would go to veterans’ programs and assistance.

The committee spent a long afternoon taking testimony from opponents, primarily representing beneficiaries of the current Colorado Lottery, including state parks, outdoor programs and the Building Excellent Schools Today school construction program, and from supporters.

Those supporters included representatives of various veterans groups, many of whom who gave emotional testimony about the needs of ill and unemployed veterans. The audience included a large number of vets, many of them wearing their American Legion and DAV caps.

The differences – and the uncertainty – around the measure involve whether a new lottery game would cannibalize current lottery revenues, and whether the new game would actually raise significant revenues for veterans programs.

The resolution next goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Because the measure is a proposed constitutional amendment, it needs to pass both houses by two-thirds majorities and then be approved by the voters.
Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.

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