Fulfilling a promise for full-day kindergarten will depend on which budget forecast state lawmakers trust.
Gov. Jared Polis' (D-Colorado) first promise after taking office was to start full-day kindergarten covered by state tax dollars.
During the quarterly March update, both the Governor's budget director and the chief economist for the non-partisan legislative council laid out the outlook for the next few years.
"There's another $29.6 million available in the general fund," State Planning and Budget Director Lauren Larson told the Joint Budget Committee about the budget year that starts on July 1.
"We have also seen home price appreciation slow in the state of Colorado. And what's driving that slow down is largely the higher cost areas of the state have finally started to level off," cautioned Legislative Council Chief Economist Kate Watkins.
Polis has said the state can afford to pay for full-day kindergarten because local property taxes are providing enough money to school districts, so that the state doesn't have to backfill as much as it's used to. That means the state has more money to spend - perhaps on full-day kindergarten, perhaps on transportation or even health care.
"Once we make that obligation to 'full-day K', we do not want to have to take it back," said Joint Budget Committee member Sen. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale). "I love the idea of full day kindergarten, I'm just concerned about, in the next two or three years, what happens."
Rankin is concerned about the impact Senate Bill 19-181 will have on property values. That bill is the oil and gas reform package that has already passed the Senate and has its first hearing in the House on Monday.
"What happens if those property taxes paid by oil and gas start to decline because of the impact of Senate Bill 181?" said Rankin. "From my part of the state, there will be impact. You can't put that much new regulation on an industry and expect it to remain constant."
Simply put, the oil and gas bill would give local governments control of regulations on where the oil and gas industry can operate. City councils and county commissioners could limit how close operations can be to homes, schools and other landmarks. Even if a local jurisdiction does not tighten regulations, the state could pass stricter regulations that would apply to those areas.
Increased oil and gas regulation was also a Polis Promise.
The bill would also force the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission - the state regulators - to put an emphasis on health and safety when making decisions. This could impact the approval of future oil and gas permits.
"We need to very carefully understand how much of oil and gas property taxes we’re counting on for long term sustainability," said Rankin.
"I don't think there's going to be any effect as a result of legislation currently making its way through the process. I don't think we're going to have less production, but oil and gas revenues, as we all know, are volatile," said Joint Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City).
On Thursday, Moreno cautioned that the budget forecast could determine if Democrats recommend that full-day kindergarten be funded right away or through a phased in approach instead.
"What the forecasts have shown today is that we need to take pause on very large fiscal commitments to the state budget. We just don't know what the future years are going to look like," said Moreno.
He said the Joint Budget Committee would decide next week what its recommendation would be and present that to all lawmakers to decide.