Mar 19, 2011 8:04 PM by Matt Stafford

Budget deficit looming as legislators gear up for the second half

Legislators have known since heading to the Capitol in January that they'll be looking at a lot of bills, but their big job is making sure the dollars and cents add up.

"The most pressing issue for this entire session is the budget," says Rep. Bob Gardner, (R) House District 21.

With the session halfway over, legislators are making final decisions before writing next year's budget. This weekend El Paso County republicans held a town hall to talk it over with voters.

"We really have major financial problems for the next 10 to 15 years," says Rep. Marsha Looper, (R) House District 19.

"We've got to fundamentally get the reserve built up because we have a couple of tough years coming ahead," explains Sen. Keith King, (R) Senate District 12.

Those discussions spread across the political spectrum to the democrats, who were also meeting with voters this weekend.

"We have to cut close to a billion dollars, where do they want those cuts to come from?" asks Rep. Sal Pace, (D) House District 46.

The democrats met at the Penrose Public Library downtown, and heard a lot of concern over cutting funding for education -- something Governor Hickenlooper has discussed and looks likely.

Representative Pete Lee says to meet looming deficits legislators will either need to make cuts or raise revenues. Republicans are looking to trim.

"K-12 education and Medicaid are the two largest sectors of our state budget," explains Rep. Gardner. "As a consequence they are the two things that have to take the largest cuts."

As they decide what the exact formula will be of cuts to meet the budget, both sides were happy for voter input.

"People understand the severity of the problems that we're in and I think they're being very realistic about where we have to go with it," Rep. Lee, (D) House District 18.

"People are doing the same thing around their kitchen tables; they know there are hard choices, but hopefully they will all participate in the decision with us," says Rep. Gardner.

Legislators will continue work on the budget Monday. This session is scheduled to run through May 11th.



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