Ritter wants $340M more cut from Colorado budget | AspenTimes.com

Ritter wants $340M more cut from Colorado budget

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – Vowing to protect the state’s safety net for struggling families, Gov. Bill Ritter recommended Thursday that the state liquidate a scholarship trust fund, close a prison boot camp and go after delinquent taxpayers to rebalance Colorado’s budget.

The governor said the state has to cut another $340 million to balance next year’s $7 billion proposed budget. That’s on top of the $2.2 billion the state had to cut this year and a $1 billion cut already proposed for next year’s budget that begins July 1.

Ritter blamed the cuts on a continuing worldwide recession and reduced tax revenues.

“Families, small businesses, nonprofits and government agencies continue to struggle through the worst economy since the Great Depression. This is a new economic reality, and state government is adapting, reprioritizing and becoming more efficient so we can keep providing people with essential services – quality schools for our children, water that is safe to drink and a transportation system that keeps our economy moving,” Ritter said.

The governor’s plan, some of which will require legislative approval, proposes a $20 million cut to the Department of Corrections because of a surprising drop in caseloads. He also recommended closing a corrections boot camp in Buena Vista, cutting travel, supplies, printing and postage for state agencies and phasing out the CollegeInvest Early Achievers Scholarships trust fund by 2016.

Ritter said only 400 students were receiving the scholarships and he promised to protect their scholarships until they graduate.

Ritter said the state plans to collect $15 million in back taxes at a cost of $326,000.

Ritter also is proposing that one third of the new high-security Colorado State Penitentiary be opened to hold 316 prisoners on July 1 following the deaths of three inmates in the past year.

Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo, said the state needs to be able to move high-risk inmates out of lower security prisons.

“We need a safety valve,” she said.

The move requires that the state spend $10.8 million, which includes hiring 229 workers. That’s about the same amount of money the state is saving because a drop in the number of inmates in the state.

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