Gov. Ritter cutting another $286M from budget
October 28, 2009
DENVER – Gov. Bill Ritter laid out his plan to cut another $286 million from the state budget on Wednesday, including reductions in Medicaid provider rates and $145 million from higher education. The cuts come on top of the $1.8 billion budget shortfall the state has already covered over the past year.
The cuts to higher education will be covered by federal funds this year, but the governor’s office warned those funds will not be available next year and colleges and universities may be hard hit if new money is not found by then.
It was the second time this year Ritter has been forced to cut this year’s budget, which ends in June, and the governor’s office warned more cuts may lie ahead.
“We’re managing the state’s economy in the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, and this isn’t a one-time hiccup or temporary blip. This is a massive correction. It is a new economic reality for all of us,” he told lawmakers on the Joint Budget Committee, which sets the state’s spending priorities.
On Tuesday, the governor ordered state employees to take four more unpaid furlough days, on top of four furlough days that workers already are taking, in an effort to save money.
Ritter says the eight closure days will save about $27.2 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year that ends June 30.
Recommended Stories For You
The governor said he is working on a plan for next year that would require all state employees to take cuts after state workers complained that nearly half the state workers were protected because their jobs were deemed essential, but he refused to release details.
On Nov. 2 and Nov. 6, the governor will present his budget for the next fiscal year, and even deeper cuts are expected.
Todd Saliman, the governor’s budget director, said the cuts are needed because of higher-than-expected Medicaid caseload growth and previous cuts that Ritter backed away from, including $4.5 million he tried to cut for aid to the needy and disabled and $14 million of $19 million that the governor expected to cut by giving early parole to convicted felons.
The early release program was cut back after authorities said they inadvertently released a sex offender from prison under a moneysaving early release initiative and imposed stricter guidelines.
Ritter, a former Denver district attorney, said that no sex offenders, kidnappers or killers would be released under the program, but Ritter has no control over which prisoners are released, which is under the control of the parole board.
The governor also cut $3.1 million from Medicaid providers, reducing rates by 1 percent, bringing this year’s total cuts to the program to 4.5 percent.
Ritter said he doesn’t believe those cuts are onerous and he believes those providers will continue to provide services at a time when demand for health care is soaring.