Debate on budget bill starts with call to change the way the budget is done
Author: Marianne Goodland - March 29, 2018 - Updated: April 5, 2018
DENVER — The annual race to approve Colorado’s budget has drawn concern about just how short a time lawmakers have to delve into the 595-page document and the 17 bills that go with it.
This prompted a half-hour delay on the start of the budget bill debate Wednesday while House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock called on lawmakers to consider a retooling of the budget process.
Neville and other members of his caucus have been raising the question on how to re-form the budget process for more than a year.
“The JBC and staff have done a beautiful job,” he said Wednesday, on balancing the numbers and explaining what the budget bill will do. “But it’s simply ridiculous that we’re being asked to commit nearly $30 billion of taxpayer money on such short notice.”
Another issue: the budget is an “all or nothing” proposition, with the funding for all 210 state agencies and departments in one document, he said.
Neville suggested another approach: refer the budget to the Joint Budget Committee and to sever the bill departments by departments. It’s not that far flung an idea: supplemental appropriations, which the JBC also handles, are done on a department by department basis during January of each year.
That would split the Long Bill along the 22 departments with a separate bill for capital construction funding. The budget for most of these departments, he said, is likely to be uncontested. But if lawmakers took the time to pass these departmental budgets separately, “we’d find common ground, bipartisan solution and the people would benefit.”
Neville acknowledged such an approach would be labor- intensive and time-consuming. This isn’t a knock on the JBC, he said; if he had his way he’d add members to the JBC. That said, all lawmakers are responsible to their constituents for their votes.
Neville’s motion won little support from the JBC or Democrats. Republican Rep. Bob Rankin of Carbondale, a JBC member, noted that many lawmakers, outside of the six on the JBC, have attended budget hearings during the past several months, and that the JBC has been transparent.
The motion died on a voice vote. Lawmakers are now working through the 95 amendments to the Long Bill, House Bill 1322, plus debate on the 17 bills (and likely amendments) accompanying the long bill that help balance the budget.
The lengthy debate could extend past midnight, which means lawmakers would adjourn at 11:59 p.m. and come back to work after midnight to finish the Long Bill and any other bills they want to finish at that time.
Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran of Denver told Democratic members during a morning caucus meeting that the day off scheduled for Good Friday is unlikely.