Capitol cry: ‘Show us the money!’

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By Greg Romberg

As we enter the final stretch of this year’s session of the Colorado General Assembly (it must be concluded by May 6), we could be watching a sequel of “Jerry Maguire.” The operative phrase for the last month of the session is likely to be, “Show me the money!”

The Long Bill, the budget for the state for the fiscal year that begins July 1, was originally to have been introduced by March 23. Because of uncertainty about how much money was likely to be available, the date was pushed back a week, and after revenue forecasts released March 20 showed the state to be short almost a billion dollars to finish the current year and start the next, the bill is now to be introduced next Monday.

Since the severity of the recession became apparent last fall, it was clear that declining tax revenues would force governments across the country to look for ways to balance their budgets. Initial estimates in Colorado suggested the state would have to find $600 million to balance the budget for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Through a package of spending cuts and fund transfers, legislators thought they’d accomplished the task. But the most recent revenue forecasts shows another $155 million must be found.

Then attention shifts to next year as the Joint Budget Committee must craft a 2009-10 budget with approximately $800 million less than legislators thought they’d have.

After getting Gov. Bill Ritter’s proposed budget Nov. 1, JBC members spent the next several months working, only to find out on the eve of the projected date to finalize their proposal and submit it to the rest of the legislature that it will take major revisions to introduce something that meets Colorado’s constitutional requirement that the budget be balanced.

Look for less general funds and higher tuition in higher education, adjustments to K-12 education spending to shift costs to the state education fund, moving all available cash funds and a variety of initiatives involving state employees that could include reductions in the state’s contribution to benefits, wage freezes and furloughs.

You’ll see a lot of hand-wringing the next two weeks before the bill is passed and sent to the governor.

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Evergreen resident Wyatt Manobla, a junior at the Denver School of the Arts, is featured on the MTV show “MADE” that premieres at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 4. In “MADE,” high school students spend several weeks learning to do something other than their current activities. Wyatt is an accomplished actor and singer. Watch to see him branch out into something new and different.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.