Coronavirus blasts $3.3 billion hole in Colorado budget

At least a tenth of Colorado’s state budget for next year must be cut, lawmakers were advised Tuesday morning.

For weeks, economists and lawmakers were preparing for a hard hit, but now they have a specific number to work with: The total shortfall for the 2020-21 fiscal year is about $3.3 billion, according to nonpartisan legislative analysts.

The economic crisis prompted by the coronavirus tanked the budget outlook. In December, analysts were expecting that the legislature would have about $832.5 million more to spend in the coming budget than they had in the current year’s budget.

As recently as early March, analysts dramatically scaled back their expectations, forecasting a $27 million surplus.

Now, they’re measuring the shortfall in the billions and settling in for a long-haul contraction.

“Coming out of it is going to take years to recover,” chief legislative economist Kate Watkins told lawmakers.

The state’s bipartisan Joint Budget Committee has been working furiously for more than a week to cut spending for next year. The broader legislature is expected to pass a budget later this month and in early June.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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