Colorado could get $1.3B from economic stimulus
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Colorado could get about $1.3 billion this year under one version of the federal economic stimulus package being considered by Congress.
Included in that funding proposal moving through the House is $495 million that would help the state avoid looming budget cuts, according to an analysis provided by Rep. Ed Perlmutter on Friday. Colorado would also get another $495 million to avoid budget cuts the following year for a total of $990 million over two years under the House plan.
That’s close to the $1 billion budget shortfall state lawmakers are expecting between this year and next year. Gov. Bill Ritter has already proposed about $600 million in cuts from this year’s budget. He plans to recommend another round of cuts next week.
State lawmakers who oversee the state budget were excited to hear about the proposed stimulus money on Friday but said they wanted to see the details, including whether there were any strings attached to how the money is spent.
Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, said the money might help the state avoid deep budget cuts and prevent lawmakers from having to raid cash funds meant to fund other programs in order to balance the budget.
“This might at a minimum soften the blow,” he said.
Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland, said the proposed funding could help pay for health and human service programs.
“The devil is in the details. If that really is the case, that will help Colorado tremendously,” he said.
Ritter’s spokesman Evan Dreyer cautioned that the figures being considered in Washington are in flux.
“While those federal recovery dollars will certainly be extremely helpful, they are not the answer to the $1 billion budget gap we must close,” he said.
The Senate is working on its own economic stimulus plan, and it’s not clear yet how much it would give states to balance their budgets. The two different versions would have to be reconciled, but that could happen quickly.
Perlmutter said President Barack Obama wants to sign a stimulus bill by Feb. 16 and the aim is to start distributing the money to states within 60 days. Perlmutter said any money set aside for plugging Colorado’s budget would have to be used to maintain jobs and even increase jobs in the state.
The $1.3 billion proposed for Colorado this year under the House plan would also include about $500 million for highways and mass transit and $267 million for special education and school construction.
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