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Colorado Lawmakers Eye May 18 Return, Consider $3.5M Cuts From Operating Budget

An assortment of pictures from the Colorado state Capitol building on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The building is closed to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Polis said more state employees will start working from home.
An assortment of pictures from the Colorado state Capitol building on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The building is closed to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Polis said more state employees will start working from home.

Wearing masks in a nearly empty hearing room at the state Capitol on Wednesday, top lawmakers said they want to resume their session on May 18.

But they are also working on a backup plan that would let them pass a budget and other critical bills remotely if it's still not safe to return.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, said he doesn't think lawmakers should go online to hold committee hearings and vote on bills unless it becomes absolutely necessary. He added the remote system should only be used to pass essential bills like the budget, which lawmakers are required to get done.

Lawmakers are hoping they can return to the building on May 18 and send a budget to Gov. Jared Polis by June 1.

Their task won't be easy.

House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder, said last week lawmakers were facing a $2 to $3 billion deficit for next fiscal year.

The legislature is also considering cutting its own operating budget by as much as $3.5 million next year.

Cost-saving measures lawmakers are considering range from not filling vacant positions to cancelling a proposed pay raise for legislators and staff next fiscal year.

Party leaders also are supporting a plan to save about $111,000 by cancelling interim committees this summer. The committees usually convene to work on a range of bills while lawmakers are not in session.

Copyright 2020 KUNC

Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado. His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings. Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.
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