Colorado House OKs $20.5B budget for near year

Slain prisons chief cited as Colo. House OKs moving money to parole system in budget

Associated Press

DENVER (AP) -- Citing Colorado's slain prisons chief, the state House shifted money to the state parole system Thursday as it approved a $20.5 billion budget for next year.

The budget also includes more money for K-12 schools, public colleges and a small pay raise for state employees.

The House voted to add nearly $500,000 for more parole officers in the wake of the shooting death of Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements. Authorities believe he was killed by a parolee who recently slipped through the cracks in the criminal justice system.

A few Republicans opposed the parole change, saying the Evan Ebel error was not the fault of the state's parole system. Opponents also argued that the money would be better used in a fund for private prisons and jails, where it originated.

Next year's proposed budget already cleared the Democrat-led Senate. The parole amendment wasn't in the Senate version, so lawmakers will have to keep working.

The budget reflects small growth in the general fund, which consists of tax revenue and is the portion of spending that lawmakers control. General fund spending is expected to be at about $8.2 billion next fiscal year, compared to $7.6 billion in the current budget year.

One more formal vote is required in the House before the two chambers can begin assembling a panel to rectify differences in the spending plan.

Democrats applauded the budget as a relief after years of painful budget cuts and no raises for state workers. They defeated GOP attempts to decrease spending across the board.

"This is smart spending," said Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder and one of the House's chief budget writers.