Gov. Polis Releases Balanced Budget Proposal with Record Reserves & Prudent Investments

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

DENVER – Today, as required by statute, Governor Jared Polis released his balanced budget proposal for FY 2023-24, concurrently submitting his budget proposal to the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) of the General Assembly. The Governor’s budget proposal is focused on addressing the issues Coloradans face today while saving families money and investing in our future, making neighborhoods safer and more affordable, protecting our land, air, and water, and balancing the budget with record reserves, while continuing to save Coloradans money and reduce costs.

“The hard work of the last four years has led to a strong economic recovery, with tens of thousands of new jobs created in the last year alone and an unemployment rate below the national average,” said Gov. Polis. “But we must continue pushing forward and address the challenges facing Coloradans. I am proud that this balanced budget proposal focuses on securing today and investing in tomorrow. This budget doubles down on the work to make our state more affordable, safer, cleaner, and better prepared for a natural disaster or financial rainy day.”

The Governor’s continued commitment to good government and fiscal responsibility is reflected in this budget proposal, now more important than ever given global economic uncertainty. By protecting historic 15% reserves for a future rainy day, restraining operating growth to 7% - below the 8.3% rate of inflation, and saving more than half of the prepays that were set aside last year, Governor Polis remains focused on supporting Colorado’s fiscal future. 

Governor Polis has made education a top priority since day one, and the Governor’s budget proposal builds upon this work to ensure Colorado students have access to a high-quality education. In 2019, the Polis administration instituted free full-day kindergarten statewide for the first time in Colorado history. In 2020, Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved universal preschool for all Colorado kids, and this year Gov. Polis signed into law HB22-1295 to create the Department of Early Childhood and the Colorado Universal Preschool Program. This budget includes $325 million to implement free universal preschool for the first time in Colorado, saving families thousands of dollars and providing high-quality early childhood education.

Beyond universal preschool, the Governor’s budget proposal builds on previous historic investments in Colorado schools by increasing per-pupil funding by $861 or nearly $19,000 for a classroom of 22, on top of last year’s record increase of $545 per pupil or $12,000 per classroom, and reducing the Budget Stabilization Factor to a fourteen-year low of 3% of the total program.  This is more money for classrooms and educators to ensure the best education our children deserve. This budget will also keep college tuition increases at half the rate of inflation. 

Saving Coloradans money and supporting the businesses that power Colorado’s economy continues to be a top priority for the Polis administration. The Governor’s budget builds upon the growing list of over 100 ways the Polis administration is saving Coloradans money with additional fee relief, lower-cost housing, and healthcare savings. 

The Governor’s budget continues the effective fee relief enacted through HB22-1001 to make it nearly free to start a business, saving Colorado business owners over $8 million and encouraging economic growth and expansion. New fee reductions for individuals seeking to become licensed child care providers make it more affordable to start or expand a child care business and build on earlier successes waiving license fees for nurses, nurse aides, and psychiatric technicians, bolstering Colorado’s critical healthcare workforce. 

Additional money-saving measures include continuing free transit services during Colorado’s high ozone period in August, which effectively decreased pollution, saved riders more than $15 Million, and increased ridership by more than 36% over the previous year. Continuing to save Coloradans money on health care, the Reinsurance Program is saving Coloradans $2800 to $7500 on health insurance premiums this year, and the Division of Insurance projects that by the end of 2023, it will have reduced premiums by nearly $1.2 billion dollars since it was established in 2020. 

To ensure every Coloradan can thrive in safe and healthy communities, the Polis administration continues to invest in public safety with the goal of making Colorado one of the ten safest states in the nation over the next five years. Last year, Gov. Polis signed a comprehensive public safety plan of action including significant investments in community policing models, enhanced investigative capacity, and investing in the law enforcement workforce. The Governor’s budget proposal builds upon this work and provides evidence-based solutions to keep communities and schools safe with robust support for local law enforcement, community organizations, and school safety initiatives. 

Coloradans know all too well the impacts of wildfires, floods, and landslides, which is why, in addition to further resources to combat fires now, the Governor’s budget proposal includes new, ongoing resources for climate action and preparedness, including wildfire mitigation, water quality, defending Colorado’s water rights and continuing to fight for clean air, and reducing the State’s energy footprint. 

Colorado continues to be a leader in wildfire mitigation and suppression, and this budget expands wildfire response capacity and proven prevention measures. Key investments in wildfire prevention include aerial resources to fight large wildfires from above, increased support and training for Colorado’s brave and hardworking firefighters, expanded fire mitigation efforts, and the establishment of a statewide fire data governance system. These bold investments are the latest in a series of steps the Polis administration has taken to prepare for, prevent, and respond to wildfires.

Water is the lifeblood of our state, and the Polis administration remains committed to preserving and protecting Colorado’s precious water resources. The Governor’s proposed budget includes new investments in technical capacity and policy expertise to ensure that the State can meet its interstate obligations while protecting the Colorado River entitlements that are paramount to Colorado’s economy, livelihoods, and quality of life.

Over the last two years, the State has made unprecedented investments in housing. The Governor’s budget builds upon this work with bold support for statewide innovative affordable housing projects through the state’s Public-Private Partnership (P3) office, including a key investment at Dowd Junction in Vail Valley to construct 80 new workforce housing units. These strong public-private partnerships, which include local governments, will allow the state to be part of the housing solution to unlock more intergenerational wealth, increase housing affordability, and ensure Colorado grows in a sustainable, climate-forward way, where more Coloradans are able to live in the communities they serve.

Per Colorado statute, the Governor is submitting a budget by the statutory deadline of November 1st. Statutes also allow the Governor to submit a supplemental budget amendment package on January 2nd, as his administration always has. Should Colorado voters choose to give Governor Polis a second term, he will submit an amendment package in January based on upcoming forecasts that includes additional priorities as he did in January 2019 after his election as Governor in 2018.

See the full budget letter and slides