SB 259, 273 and 281 head to the House
DENVER— Monday, the Senate passed the 2009-10 budget (SB 259) and the two Pinnacol bills (SB 273 and 281) on final vote. The budget passed by a vote of 22 to 12 (with Republican Senator and JBC member Al White voting with the Democrats). SB 273 passed on a vote of 19 to 14 and SB 281 passed on a vote of 18 to 14. Sen. Rollie Heath and Sen. Josh Penry recused themselves from the vote because a conflict of interest.
Senator Moe Keller (D-Wheat Ridge) is the chair of the Joint Budget Committee and asked all Senators to support the long bill before sending it over to the House. “The Joint Budget Committee has wrestled with the problem of limited revenues at a time we try to meet demands to maintain state services that citizens want,” said Sen. Keller. “We began this process with the question, what is the core mission of government? Since we are cutting core programs, like prisons, the question has changed. We need to ask the citizens: what are you willing to pay for? And what do you want in Colorado state government? The process of balancing two budget years at the same time, without sufficient revenues to maintain services, has been a nightmare for all of us. It’s is a lengthy process and we are not finished yet.”
Also on Monday, the Senate passed two bills to save higher education by filling the $300 million gap in the budget. SB 273 will transfer almost $580 million from Pinnacol Assurance’s $700 million surplus and is sponsored by Joint Budget Committee members Senator Al White (R-Hayden) and Rep. Don Marostica (R-Loveland). SB 281 will establish and interim committee to determine if Pinnacol Assurance needs increased legislative oversight. The sponsors of SB 281 are Senator Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) and Rep. Paul Weissman (D-Louisville).
Senator Shaffer gave a statement on the floor this morning asking for support for SB 281. “We still have a huge hole in our budget and are in a position where we may need to cut $300 million from higher education. That is simply unacceptable. Pinnacol Assurance is a division of the state. It pays no taxes and its massive surplus can be better spent on higher education in Colorado.”
Senator Chris Romer (D-Denver) stood up today in support of SB 281: “This is the tough choice. This is the right choice. We cannot be a competitive state until we have a knowledge-based economy. We need to create a New Energy Economy and we will do that through education. Today is not the day to cut $300 million from higher ed. Today, we need to get through these tough times and on the other side we will be rewarded.”
For more information about the Pinnacol bills click here.
These bills will now head to the House. The House is planning on hearing them in Committee this afternoon.