To pass their expansive legislative agenda, the new Democratic majority at the Colorado Capitol spent big this year. Real big. And now even Democratic budget writers are worried about how to make ends meet.
“There were a lot of bills passed last (session) that have continued spending … and some of those were very large,” said Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo. “I don’t think we completely all truly understand what we have obligated ourselves to.”
The incoming chairwoman of the Joint Budget Committee issued the extraordinary warning about the forthcoming spending constraints Friday, two months before lawmakers will meet to craft the spending plan for the next fiscal year.
A preliminary estimate prepared for budget writers shows the legislation approved in the 2019 session will cost an additional $80 million to $100 million in the next budget. One factor is a low-ball estimate for the cost of full-day kindergarten, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ chief legislative priority in his first year.
The additional costs anticipated don’t include other major obligations that will come due, such as a projected $175 million to expand inpatient treatment for opioid and substance abuse under legislation approved in 2018 and another $30 million more for the state’s share in a federal children’s health insurance program.
Right now, projections show Colorado may not have the money to cover all the bills and continue spending at its current rate in other priority areas, such as education, transportation and health care.