Top Democratic and Republican state lawmakers on Wednesday joined Gov. Jared Polis to unveil a $700 million state economic stimulus plan, the lion’s share of which is set to go to “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects, including repairs to the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels and Interstate 70 bridges.
The shovel-ready projects will total $170 million, or about a quarter of all the spending. Hundreds of millions more is set to be spent on other, longer-term infrastructure projects, such as expanding broadband access and revitalizing cities’ main streets.
The remainder of the spending includes initiatives to invest in rural Colorado, support the recovery of small businesses, affordable housing development and mental health. There’s also money for child care and support for schools and students.
“This product that is being presented today is the work of long hours, many sleepless nights that our legislative leaders, their staff, my staff worked hard on to help Colorado build back quicker and stronger,” Polis said at a news conference at the governor’s mansion in downtown Denver.
The announcement comes as President Joe Biden is expected to sign a $1.9 trillion federal stimulus plan, which Congress approved Wednesday. State leaders were awaiting the details of that aid package – which includes billions of dollars for Colorado toward child care, education, unemployment and other needs – before finalizing their own spending plan.
The money Colorado lawmakers are using to pay for the state stimulus plan comes from unexpected tax revenue.
The Legislature slashed the state’s budget last year in anticipation of an economic downturn because of the pandemic. While there was a downturn, the economy has fared better than expected, leaving the Legislature with hundreds of millions of dollars to allocate.
“And while the pandemic has been devastating – we’ve lost 6,000 Coloradans, a lot of folks are unemployed – we did prepare for the worst,” said Polis. “Thankfully, those worst case scenarios didn’t come to pass. And so we have one-time, carry-forward funds.”
Up to $131 million would go toward boosting agriculture and rural communities, including $20 million to $35 million in competitive grants for rural agriculture infrastructure investments and millions toward forest and watershed restoration projects to protect communities against wildfire.
“We are investing directly in rural Colorado,” said House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar.
Other spending priorities include:
$30 million on projects to revitalize community main streets.$60 million to $80 million in matching funds for downtown revitalization efforts and to create more affordable housing options in urban areas.$50 million to $75 million to expand broadband internet infrastructure.$30 million to $40 million for existing clean energy programs.$40 million to $50 million in sales tax relief for small restaurants and bars. $20 million to $30 million toward lending institutions that cater to “historically underserved” entrepreneurs.$10 million to $15 million in one-time grants to small businesses, with a priority for rural, women, minority and veteran-owned businesses.$10 million to $15 million to rent, lease or buy hotel rooms for unhoused individuals.$5 million to $10 million to support child care businesses.$8 million to $9 million for mental health screenings in schools.Each proposal will come in the form of individual bills, which have yet to be released, so the details remain unclear.
This is a developing story that will be updated.Read more at The Colorado SunThe Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.