Colo. lawmakers face spending standoff

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Colorado lawmakers promised to work together to cut spending this year. But they didn’t make it through January.

The Legislature neared a stalemate Monday on how much the state should plan to spend next fiscal year. The Senate voted 20-15, on a straight party-line vote, not to ratchet back a spending resolution.

The Republican House wanted to ratchet back state economists’ projection that Colorado could take in almost $7.1 billion in tax receipts. But the Democratic-controlled Senate balked, saying the estimate is already a conservative guess of how much the state will take in.

Republicans said it would be prudent to cut that estimate further, by about $195 million, to make sure the state doesn’t run out of money next year.

Both parties accused the other of posturing and not being serious about how to cut spending. Senate Democratic Leader John Morse accused the GOP of showboating on spending, arguing that to make up the $195 million, budget-writers would have to lay off 3,200 teachers, possibly unnecessarily.

“We are willing to make the cuts that need to be made,” Morse said of the Democrats. “To say, ‘We’re going to arbitrarily budget to a lower number’ makes no sense.”

The GOP argued that even though the $7.1 billion estimate may be a conservative guess, the economy has been so rocky that it would make sense to lower it even further.

“Plan for the worst and hope for the best,” said Republican Sen. Greg Brophy, of Wray.

Democrats retorted that Republicans simply want to show they’re fiscal hard-liners. They pointed out that the spending resolution was a suggestion and that the lowered figure wouldn’t force the budget-writing Joint Budget Committee to cut spending.

It was not immediately clear what would happen if the House and Senate are unable to agree on a single spending suggestion.