As Promised, Federal Aid Rights Colorado’s Fiscal Ship

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Colorado Newsline’s Moe Clark reports on plans announced yesterday by Gov. Jared Polis and the Democratic majority leadership in the General Assembly to spend almost $4 billion in federal assistance coming to the state as a result of the American Rescue Plan passed soon after President Joe Biden took office:

Colorado Democratic leaders and lawmakers gathered on the steps of the state Capitol on Monday morning to unveil their preliminary plan for how to distribute $3.8 billion in federal stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress…

State lawmakers will decide how to allocate approximately $2 billion of the allotment by June 12, the current end date for the 2021 legislative session.

More details will be released on where those funds will be allocated once state lawmakers introduce their forthcoming stimulus bill (or bills). These bills will go through the typical legislative process, meaning there will be multiple opportunities for members of the public to give input on the proposals.

Lawmakers plan to convene an interim committee during the summer and fall to determine how the remaining $1.8 billion will be spent. Lawmakers will then vote on the proposals during the 2022 legislative session.

During the acrimonious election-year debate last fall over a second round of economic relief legislation to help the country make it through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest sticking points for Republicans in Congress was aid to state and local governments. Although state and local governments were some of the hardest hit by revenue declines during the pandemic, and in many cases like Colorado have severe limits on the ability to borrow money to cover shortfalls, Republicans chose to vilify “wasteful” state and local governments and fiercely opposed what became known as the “blue state bailout.”

Then as readers know there was an election–actually a couple of elections–after which it became possible to pass the American Rescue Plan without any Republican support. The $3.8 billion in federal stimulus funds Colorado now gets to use to close the budget shortfall created by the pandemic as well as make new investments in housing, education, healthcare, and infrastructure is all money that Republicans in Congress, including Colorado’s three Republicans, did not want the state of Colorado to receive. And by refusing to even request funding for projects in their districts which have in many cases been waiting for years due to political objections to the process, Colorado Republicans are short-changing their constituents even more.

Federal pandemic aid won’t last forever, of course, and there will still be hard fiscal questions for Colorado to answer once this relief money has come and gone. But in the end, the good these investments will do will speak louder than the objections.

And voters, in the clearest terms possible, know who to thank.

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