Jan 312012
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Funding for higher education stands to be cut by $30 million less than originally proposed, according to the latest revisions to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s 2012-2013 budget proposal.

The fiscal plan originally suggested cutting funding to state colleges and universities by $60 million when the governor unveiled it last November, but Colorado officials decided to halve the dollar amount after receiving larger-than-expected December revenue forecasts.

The restored money would go toward funding need-based financial aid.

The budget proposal is currently being discussed in the state House’s joint budget committee. It will be introduced to the House of Representatives and Senate in early April for final approval.

Chase Eckerdt, Associated Students of CSU director of Governmental Affairs, applauded the news as a sign that the state’s economic circumstances are changing slightly for the better. In recent years, he said headlines across Colorado described outright financial turmoil.

“There’s potential there, and we haven’t been able to say that in a number of years,” Eckerdt said. “ … If you go back to that revenue forecast in September … the economy was pretty stagnant, revenue was pretty slow, there was a lot of uncertainty in terms of the national economy and where everything was going. ”

Colorado Rep. John Kafalas [D-52] of Fort Collins cautioned against making too much of the revisions.

In March, Colorado legislators will receive yet another revenue forecast. If it turns out to be lower than they expected, the budget proposal could be revised to reflect the new information. Cuts to higher education could return to its initial $60 million level.

“We still have to make cuts,” Kefalas said. “We’re not out of the deep end of the pool.”

A poor March forecast isn’t the only factor that could force legislators to raise higher education cuts back to $60 million. The state of the national economy could also affect what the final budget proposal stipulates.

“If we see a double-dip recession, or if we see major economic events in the world that impacts our national economy,” Eckerdt said, citing the potentially troublesome European debt crisis, “that’s certainly going to trickle down to the state level.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Gov. Hickenlooper’s top five budget priorities
1. Protecting the vulnerable (seniors, people with disabilities)
2. Education reform
3. Job creation and economic development
4. Long-term budget planning
5. Redesigning government to make it more effective

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