DALLAS — With newly installed Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature already affixed to his first budget bill, Colorado’s evenly divided General Assembly adjourned this week, though it left some business unresolved.
Unable to reach agreement on redistricting after the 2010 Census, lawmakers kicked the issue to a state district court judge in Denver who will write rules for drawing the new lines.
The Republican-led House and Democratic-led Senate passed an $18 billion budget that Hickenlooper signed while vetoing eight footnotes that he said violated the state’s constitution.
Legislators faced a shortfall of $1 billion when their session began in January, but that was halved by a March economic forecast of higher revenues in an improving economy.
In the fiscal year beginning July 1, funding for public education will fall $227.5 million, or 5.2%, from the previous year’s outlay. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, originally proposed a $332 million cut for schools, but the improved revenue projections eased the reductions.
“This budget represents a crucial first step in bridging the structural gap between Colorado’s general fund revenues and expenditures,” Hickenlooper wrote
in a letter to lawmakers after signing the budget, which is known as “the long bill.”
“Our task next year will be difficult, but the framework for a productive process is firmly established,” he said.
With his first legislative session under his belt, Hickenlooper is turning his attention to economic development plans filed by 14 regions with the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
Hickenlooper launched the plan in January with an executive order covering the state’s 64 counties. Some academics cautioned that the planning could set off competition between regions. For example, officials in the Larimer County region north of Denver suggested luring the annual stock show and rodeo from the capital city. The event is currently looking for a new home and is considering a tract near Denver International Airport.
Last month, Standard & Poor’s affirmed the state’s AA issuer credit rating with a stable outlook. Moody’s Investors Services rates the state Aa1, also with a stable outlook.
Colorado was the fourth fastest-growing state, according to the latest census. However, nonfarm payroll employment decreased 1.1% in 2010 from the previous year.