Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed Colorado’s budget bill, which outlines the state’s record-high $36.5 billion budget for the next fiscal year.
The bill increases spending on K-12 education, housing, and behavioral health services. It also seeks to address staffing issues in health care facilities, schools, and law enforcement agencies through a series of spending and new programs.
“Colorado’s thriving economy is the reason we were able to put away record reserves for a rainy day, and make record investments in education to reduce class size and improve teacher pay,” Polis said in a statement. “We are bringing real relief to Coloradans with this bipartisan balanced budget, and ensuring we have a cleaner, healthier and safer Colorado for years to come.”
One of the largest line items in the fiscal year 2022 budget is for the Department of Education which will receive more than $6.9 billion, a nearly $1 billion increase from the previous year.
The governor’s office estimates that the increased school spending will raise Colorado’s per pupil funding levels by $511 per student and an additional $12,000 to $13,000 per classroom.
“I’m proud that we are boosting funding for our public colleges and universities, which will save students money on higher education,” said Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, who chairs the bipartisan Joint Budget Committee (JBC). The JBC is responsible for writing the state’s budget each year.
The budget also significantly increases spending on improving Colorado’s air quality. The state’s Air Pollution Control Division, which operates underneath the Department of Public Health and Environment, is set to receive more than $45 million in funding after only receiving more than $660,000 in 2021.
Supporters say the budget increase is necessary because of Colorado’s increased wildfire risk. Last year, the state ranked as the most polluted city in the world after several wildfires broke out during the summer, according to rankings by IQAir.
House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, told KDVR in early April that no one at the department has been able to explain what they will use the funds for.
“Those are the places where I say, let’s not spend those dollars right now,” McKean said. “Let’s talk about what you are doing with them and figure that out.”
This article was originally posted on Polis signs record $36.5B budget into law