Changes to state budget, new bills bring good news for CU

Long-expected cuts to higher education are absent from current legislation

This week’s introduction of the 2016-17 Long Bill – the state’s proposed budget – brought with it unexpectedly good, welcome news for higher education and the University of Colorado.

While CU and other institutions had expected cuts based on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s initial request, the Joint Budget Committee advanced a budget with flat funding for higher education statewide. When the state’s higher education funding allocation formula is applied to the new numbers, CU actually would see an increase of $1.8 million.

The budget also includes a note allowing for the accommodation of whichever tuition scenario is approved by the CU Board of Regents. The board is considering three variations and is expected to vote on its choice at the April 5-6 regents meeting at CU Denver.

The House is expected to consider the Long Bill the rest of this week.

Another issue of interest to CU this session has involved the hospital provider fee. After months of discussion, lawmakers this week introduced the Hospital Provider Fee Enterprise bill, HB 16-1420, and a companion bill, HB 16-1421. Following testimony in support of the action by CU President Bruce Benson and others, the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday passed both measures.

The proposal to reclassify the fee so that it doesn’t count against the state’s revenue limit had drawn interest for its potential to alleviate potential cuts to higher education, transportation and other priorities. The state’s need to account for TABOR-required tax refunds was looming; with the JBC’s current budget, there would be no TABOR refunds in the coming year.

The companion bill, 1421, allows for additional spending -- $49 million for higher education – that would be enabled by the passage of 1420. Both bills next go to the House floor for second reading.