Colorado: Governor requests spending increases for education, wildfire mitigation and fracking studies

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

State ranks near the bottom for per-pupil funding

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — As Colorado’s budget picture continues to brighten, Gov. John Hickenlooper this week requested budget amendments that would boost spending on education and allocate funds to study environmental impacts of energy development and for forest health work.

The 2013-2014 budget will be the first in several years that includes more spending on education and without any big cuts. Overall, the state’s general fund is expected grow by about $.5 billion, from 7.6 billion to $8.1 billion.

State budget officials said Hickenlooper’s request fulfills his intent to spend increased revenue on education, public health, safety and infrastructure. Specifically, spending on k-12 education would increase by $12.8 million, boosting per-student funding to $6,607 dollars, up $228 from last year.

Only a handful of states spend less per pupil than Colorado, including Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, North Carolina. See the rankings here. Top-ranked states like New York, Vermont and Connecticut spend about twice as much per student.

Hickenlooper also made room in his budget request for up to $22 million in increased spending on child welfare, as well as $.5 million for a study focused on determining air quality impacts from oil and gas drilling. The study would also require capital expenditures of $567,000 for the technical equipment needed for the study.

Separately from the General Fund, the Governor recommends $1.3 million in cash fund spending authority for CDPHE to enter into a collaborative partnership with Colorado State University to begin collecting data for a broader study of the impacts of oil and gas operations on air quality in the northern Front Range.

A new $10.3 million allocation to the Department of Natural Resources would fund a grant program to match local dollars for improving forest health and wildfire prevention in wildland-urban interface areas.

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