DALLAS — A $19 billion budget that cuts spending for prisons and provides $98.5 million of property tax relief for senior citizens goes to the Colorado Senate after winning approval in the House on Thursday.
Only one member of the Republican-controlled House, Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, voted against the budget bill. The Democratic-controlled Senate begins consideration on Monday.
The budget's $7.5 billion in spending from the general fund for the fiscal year beginning July 1 represents a 6.5% increase from the current budget.
Amid falling crime rates, lawmakers agreed to close the Colorado State Penitentiary II in Cañon City, saving $13.5 million a year by 2013.
About $4.2 million would be shifted from the Colorado Department of Corrections to boost funding for all-day kindergarten.
However, Republicans balked at a Democratic proposal to reduce funding for private prisons for fear of harming local economies.
Bolstered by a March forecast that projected rising revenue, the House approved $98.5 million in property-tax breaks for seniors. Some lawmakers had doubted that the state could afford the tax cut.
Colorado, which does not issue general obligation debt, carries an issuer credit rating of Aa1 from Moody's Investors Service and AA from Standard & Poor's, both with stable outlooks.
Gov. John Hickenlooper's proposed budget called for transferring the fiscal 2012 ending general-fund balance amounts above the original 4% target, or $153.3 million, into the state education fund in fiscal 2013.
That would leave Colorado with a projected $447.4 million general fund balance at fiscal year-end 2013, or 6.1% of projected 2013 appropriations.
Historically, Colorado has targeted a 4% ending fund balance except in periods of fiscal stress, according to Standard & Poor's.
Colorado's economy has enjoyed growth in oil and gas production, an increase in manufacturing, and benefited from improvement in the national economy.
The state gained 35,600 jobs in 2011, an increase of 1.6%, after declines of 1.1% in 2010 and 4.5% in 2009, according to S&P.
Population grew 16.9% between 2000-2010 to five million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, compared with 9.7% growth for the nation.
Population growth remains strong, according to state demographers, with a 1.4% increase in 2011.