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Hick floats his budget to lawmakers

Proposed 2014-15 increases in higher education spending drew praise from a couple of legislators Thursday, but education wasn’t topic one when Gov. John Hickenlooper presented his proposed budget to legislators.

The governor’s trip across the street to see members of the Joint Budget Committee is an annual November ritual, and this year’s session was friendly and low-stress, given the state’s relatively good financial condition.

Hickenlooper highlighted that he’s proposing a per-student increase of $223 for K-12 but noted that figure would have to be about $1,200 if the state were to fully fund education under the terms of Amendment 23, the constitutional change passed in 2000 that requires the legislature to annually increase school funding by “inflation plus 1 percent.”

He spent a little more time on higher education, stressing his proposed overall $101.8 million increase and “an historic increase in financial aid.” The governor’s budget plan assumes that colleges and universities will hold next year’s tuition increases to no more than 6 percent.

“I want to commend you for the emphasis on higher education,” said Denver Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman, JBC vice chair. But, he added, the JBC will have to review the issue carefully. “We’re going to have to try to balance our priorities,” he said.

There may be some pressure during the 2014 legislative session to increase K-12 spending more than Hickenlooper has proposed, given the defeat of Amendment 66 on Tuesday.

New JBC chair Rep. Crisanta Duran, also a Denver Democrat, said, “I actually would have liked to have seen more” money for higher education and asked how the administration had arrived at the 6 percent tuition lid.

State budget director Henry Sobanet indicated it seemed reasonable given that annual tuition hikes have averaged 10 percent over the last five years. “We look forward to working with you on what the right tuition increase should be.”

Education wasn’t the main issue on legislators’ minds – most of their questions were about marijuana regulation and how the state will use the tax money from Proposition AA, which was passed by voters.

Hickenlooper went out of his way to praise Colorado’s relatively bipartisan handling of the budget, at least in contrast to what happens in the U.S. Congress. “Because of our cooperative work on previous budgets we have weathered those times” of flooding and other natural disasters in the last two years.

Get more details about the governor’s budget plan in this EdNews story in this summary from Hickenlooper’s administration and in these Department of Higher Education documents.

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