Gov. Hickenlooper signs first budget; vetoes eight footnotes

The Colorado Statesman

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday signed his first state budget, surrounded by the members of the Joint Budget Committee, the majority and minority leadership of the House and Senate, and his budget and lobbying staff. During the late morning signing ceremony, Hickenlooper thanked the General Assembly for its hard work on the 2011-12 budget. “I know you had a big mountain to climb,” he told lawmakers.

In signing the budget on Friday, the governor gave the House and Senate three days to override any vetoes.

The 2011-12 budget as signed by Hickenlooper and contained in Senate Bill 11-209 is $18 billion, with $7 billion coming from General Fund.

Despite the signing, the ‘11-12 budget isn’t quite in balance: three bills and a resolution tied to the budget package still haven’t made it out of the Assembly.

Moments after signing the Long Appropriations Bill and the accompanying budget message, the House finally gave initial approval to SB 76, which would extend for one year the 2.5 percent contribution shift paid by state employees to the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA). The bill was stalled while two bills repealing 2010 tax legislation went through the Senate.

House Bill 11-1005, which would end the 2.9 percent state sales tax on agricultural compounds, bull semen and pesticides, got final approval from the Senate on Friday with a 29-5 vote. The bill would go into effect July 1, 2011, one year earlier than planned.

The second tax bill is HB 1293, which would end the permanent 2.9 percent state sales tax on downloaded software that was enacted under HB 10-1192. As of press time, that bill had passed the House and was awaiting second reading debate in the Senate.

The General Assembly also has not finished its work on a resolution that would declare a fiscal emergency, a measure necessary to use certain tobacco tax revenues. Senate Joint Resolution 11-009 is awaiting a final vote from the House. Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said Friday after the signing ceremony that the House would make sure the bills in their chamber were finished before the session’s end next week. In his budget message, Hickenlooper pointed out that about $70 million needed to balance the budget are contained in SJR 9 and SB 76. The state would lose $3.7 million in general fund revenue from the passage of HB 1005, and $21.6 million through the passage of HB 1293.

Hickenlooper vetoed eight footnotes in the Long Bill, including three dealing with education and three with the Department of Human Services. He also said he would oppose including full-time equivalent (FTE) state positions within the budget bill. Hickenlooper cited two court cases that said specific staffing and resource allocation decisions in an appropriations bill are unconstitutional, and that it interferes with the prerogative of the Executive Branch to administer its appropriations. But more importantly, and apparently in line with Hickenlooper’s agenda to make state government more efficient, a predetermined FTE “limits the ability of State agencies to make the most resource-effective use of appropriations” to meet performance objectives. But Hickenlooper told the General Assembly that state agencies would report their FTE when making budget requests for 2012-13.

Marianne@colorsdostatesman.com