Feb 212010
Authors: Matt L. Stephens

Though not thrilled by the idea of slashing funds from the state’s already waning budget, budget experts said they understood Gov. Bill Ritter’s recommendation Thursday to cut an additional $340 million from the 2010-2011 fiscal year budget.

And while seemingly unnecessary to the public, this round of cuts –– the first this year to not affect higher education funding –– Ritter’s chief spokesperson Evan Dreyer said they ultimately prevent the state from acquiring a deficit, which goes against constitutional provisions.

“None of these are things that (Ritter) wants to be doing,” Dreyer said. “But they are things we must do to keep the budget balanced as is required by the Colorado Constitution.”

The proposal, which eyes a state scholarship fund, corrections, health care and several state Departments, will help to balance what’s predicted to be a $203.3 million shortfall in the fiscal year 2011 budget.

“Some of the cuts have to do with trying to balance for this year, yet some had to do with keeping next year in balance,” said John Straayer, a CSU political science professor.

The proposed balancing act would affect 30 different state programs, and would include:

  • Moving $500,000 from the state’s Agricultural Management Fund back to the General Fund (Colorado’s main funding pool),
  • Cutting $30.6 million from the Department of Corrections in the areas of inmate and parole population data, inmate medical services and the elimination of the Boot Camp program at Buena Vista Correctional Facility,
  • A projected savings of $20.6 million within the Department of Health Care Funds and Policy resulting from a decrease in Medicaid caseloads, and
  • A $45.2 million transfer from the CollegeInvest Early Achievers Scholarship Trust Fund (CIEAS) to the state’s General Fund.

In the current fiscal year, about 400 students receive $900 scholarships from the fund, totaling $360,000, according to the balancing proposal on the Governor’s Office Web site. In 2011, projections show that 1,025 students will receive $1,000 scholarships each, costing the fund $1.25 million.

CIEAS –– awarded to students thinking about college as early as sixth grade –– was scheduled to stop distributing scholarships in 2015-16 despite the cuts, Dreyer said.

Besides the cut to CIEAS, no other cuts were made to the Department of Education.

While State Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, said he feels Ritter is doing a good job of cutting from the budget, he said he was opposed to the idea of sweeping yet another scholarship fund.

“I think it has the potential to impact higher education and the students at CSU,” he said.

The public isn’t paying attention to the dire state of higher education funding Fisher said. He said he received more phone calls and e-mails regarding his proposal to cut state tourism funding than those about higher education, even after Wednesday’s state-wide rally to raise awareness of the crisis.

Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 1:42 pm

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