As Colorado Public Radio reports, state lawmakers are starting to consider where to make cuts in the state budget because of a coronavirus-related revenue shortfall of somewhere between $3 billion and $4 billion (out of a total budget of around $34 billion):
Since the start of the pandemic, personal income and sales taxes have plummeted. The committee has to undo much of the budget that was nearly finalized before the coronavirus ground state revenues to a near halt.
“I think those 10-20 percent scenarios of reducing the budget are fairly realistic,” said Democratic Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City, the vice-chair of the joint budget committee. He said the cuts couldn’t come at a worse time, as the state tries to recover from COVID-19 and help Coloradans who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic and the economy shutting down.
“I think everyone’s worry is getting rid of that safety net. So many people are relying on it. The most sinister piece of all of this is when the state encounters revenue declines, that’s when government services are needed the most,” Moreno said. “It’s really a sinister cycle we’re embarking on.”
Non-partisan budget staff released a range of proposals for the legislature to consider depending on how deep the budget cuts must go. The committee expects Colorado will need to budget to the deepest proposed cuts.
State lawmakers are required by Colorado’s Constitution to balance the state budget every year — even in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic that is gutting the world economy. The legislature needs to finalize a state budget by the end of May because Colorado’s fiscal year starts on July 1.
It’s fair to say that most lawmakers are not looking forward to making agonizing decisions such as suspending property tax exemptions for seniors, or cutting grants for K-12 school construction projects and mental health programs. But not every legislator is bummed about budget cuts, as The Colorado Sun reports, Sen. John Cooke (R-Weld County), the Assistant Minority Leader for the Republican caucus, is damn near giddy:
“I’m happy it will cut back their agenda by quite a bit. I think there is going to be pain for both sides, but more on the Democrat agenda than ours.”
The Republican legislative “agenda” in recent years has been almost entirely focused on simply opposing anything that Democrats propose under the Gold Dome…that is, when they can be bothered to pay attention at all. Senator Cooke, a former Weld County Sheriff, has never been shy about blurting out his opposition to pretty much any forward-thinking policy. He’s even proposed ignoring laws that don’t agree with his personal politics.
Within this context, Sen. Cooke’s comments are not a complete surprise, but they’re still ghoulishly inappropriate.