DENVER (CBS4) – As more people lose their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis, income tax and sales tax revenue has plummeted in Colorado, putting a colossal hole in the state budget.
“It’s not a pretty picture,” Speaker of the House KC Becker said during a virtual press conference.READ MORE: Girl Scout Delivers Homemade 'Ear Savers' To Elementary Students For More Comfortable Mask Wearing
The budget director for Gov. Jared Polis estimates at least $3 billion in spending cuts need to be made. Becker says everything is on the table, including education which makes up 36% of the general fund. Budget analysts’ recommendations include less funding for full-day kindergarten, teacher recruitment and pay, social workers and programs to boost graduation rates, reduce bullying and expand sex education.
“We face really, really, difficult decisions,” Becker said.
Higher education funding is also in jeopardy, including scholarships, tuition assistance and work study programs. State Rep. Julie McCluskie says a reduction in fall enrollment at Colorado’s colleges and universities is making the situation even worse.
“It will be very challenging to keep K-12 and higher education whole through the process,” she said.
Pain will be felt across the board. There will be less money for prisons and no money for transportation from the general fund. A health insurance program for low-income children, Canadian drug importation program and money for opioid treatment, affordable housing and mental health care could all be on the chopping block.READ MORE: Colorado Day Of Remembrance Honors Those Who Lost Their Lives To COVID
Becker says everyone in the state will be impacted in some way and vulnerable populations will be especially impacted.
“Coloradans with intellectual and developmental disabilities, people relying on social services, child welfare, seniors.”
She says new programs like paid family leave and a public health insurance option are unlikely. Even implementation of the new oil and gas law may be on hold. Furloughs of state workers also appear inevitable.
“It’s going to be really hard to avoid when you’re looking at cuts that are this deep and this fast,” she said.
Maybe most alarming is that all the drastic proposed budget cuts proposed so far add up to just under $1 billion, a third of the budget shortfall.MORE NEWS: A Year After COVID Death, Mike Farley's Family Mourns Lost Opportunities
The state is using its $900 million budget reserve just to cover current obligations in the current fiscal year. Fortunately, it has an emergency reserve for coronavirus-related expenses.