Ritter briefs lawmakers on budget cuts | AspenTimes.com

Ritter briefs lawmakers on budget cuts

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter talks about further budget cuts during a news conference in the State Capitol in Denver on Friday, Nov. 6, 2009. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER – Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter told state lawmakers Tuesday that everything is on the table to balance next year’s budget, including proposed cuts to public education.

The governor is recommending that education spending be cut by $260 million and that the state bring in another $132 million by charging sales tax on candy and soda and eliminating or suspending a dozen other tax breaks and credits.

Ritter says his administration worked hard to avoid cuts to public schools, but he says those cuts can no longer be avoided.

“I’m proposing things in this budget we haven’t done before. Everyone needs to do their part,” he told the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, which sets state spending priorities.

Ritter said public schools are getting 43 percent of the state’s general fund budget in the current fiscal year, and those programs can no longer be off limits.

State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, said the cuts to public education were set up to ensure that all school districts take a 4.6 percent hit and no district bears a disproportionate amount of the burden.

“It’s hard to come up with a balanced budget without those cuts. I hope the education community understands that they were necessarily on the chopping block,” White said.

Lawmakers still must approve the cuts Ritter approved to this year’s budget, which doesn’t end until next June.

Ritter said a proposal to eliminate a tax break for candy and soda that has drawn ridicule was necessary to balance the budget and not an attempt to punish people for eating junk food. He said alternatives included more cuts to higher education and other programs that would hurt Colorado’s ability to compete for jobs with other states.

“We thought people would be willing to pay three cents on a $1 candy bar,” he said.

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