'Tis the Budget Season

It’s that time of year again.  No, not year-end parties, pumpkin-infused everything, or holiday music you either love or hate on the radio 24-7.  Nope, even better. It’s state budget time! 

While the submission of Governor Hickenlooper’s budget to the legislature may not spark an exclamation from everyone, perhaps it should.  The budget is more than just numbers.  It is a policy statement.  It clearly demonstrates the administration’s priorities for the coming year.  It sets the stage for an annual negotiation of where to invest scarce resources and how to allocate taxpayer funding to achieve the highest social and economic returns.

This is good stuff.

Governor Hickenlooper transmitted his 2014-2015 state budget proposal to the legislature on Friday.  The overall message is that Colorado is experiencing a relatively robust economic recovery and yet is faced with paying for several natural disasters - including repaying $50 million borrowed from Medicaid to support flood recovery - and is hoping to be better prepared for the future by keeping a larger General Fund reserve than was possible in the recent past. 

In total, the $24.1 billion budget requests a 4.7 percent increase, or just over $1 billion. General fund dollars saw a proposed increase of $389 million, a 4.5 percent increase from last year.  Importantly, the budget does not include the proposed funding for education reforms or the regulation of recreational marijuana being decided by voters tomorrow, which could have major implications for the final budget figures.

While the entire document is interesting, at the Colorado Health Institute we are most focused on funding for health. 

  • Total funds request for the Department of Human Services reflects almost an 18 percent decrease or a reduction of $392 million.  However, this decrease reflects the transfer of the Developmental Disabilities program to the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing pursuant to HB13-1314. Total funding equals $1.8 billion.
  • Funding requested for the Department of Health Care policy and Financing increased 15.5 percent or just over a $1 billion. Total funding equals $7.5 billion.
  • The request includes a 5.7 percent increase for the Department of Public Health and Environment or about $30 million.  Total funding equals $554 million.

The real meat is always below the topline.  Among other things, the Governor proposes using these new funds for four major initiatives:

  1. Increased funding to support expanded Medicaid caseloads.
  2. New resources for programs that serve the developmentally disabled totaling $21.9 million.
  3. Full-year funding for child welfare and mental health improvements, which started last year with partial year funding.
  4. A 1.5 percent Medicaid provider rate increase totaling almost $57 million.

To read more, visit: http://www.colorado.gov/ospb.

Also, stayed tuned for CHI’s popular annual December Webinar, Legislative Opportunities and Trends, where we talk about the upcoming session and what it means for health.

Till then, happy number crunching!