Gov. Polis releases budget proposal; directs $160M toward rural broadband connectivity
In This Section
November 20, 2020
As part of his budget proposal to the Joint Budget Committee on Nov. 12, Gov. Jared Polis announced his intentions to direct $160 million to stimulate economic growth, create jobs, and establish rural broadband connectivity around the state. This funding is part of a supplemental request to the state’s current year budget that will be offered in January and is contingent upon the approval of the Joint Budget Committee and the General Assembly. If approved, these funds could be made available as early as February/March of 2021.
In a call with CML, CCI and other state agency stakeholders, details were announced on how the administration would like the $160 million apportioned:
• $110 million for middle mile and last mile projects, recommended to be deployed through the existing Broadband Fund and grant programs in the state agencies (DORA and DOLA);
• $20 million for educational initiatives through the Colorado Department of Education (CDE);
• $20 million for healthcare initiatives through the Office of eHealth Innovation (OeHI); and
• $10 million for tribal programs.
If this funding supplemental is adopted, it will be directed toward “shovel ready” projects in the Spring of 2021. A copy of the supplemental budget request can be read at bit.ly/3f5DfHd. The funding announcement comes just days after the release of a new report from the Colorado Broadband Office (CBO) entitled “Governor’s Broadband Initiatives Report.” (read the full report at bit.ly/2HflLM4).
Over the years, CML has consistently supported additional state and federal resources for the development of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas across the state. The heightened connectivity challenges experienced by many municipalities due to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to underscore the need for expanded broadband access to meet the economic development, education and healthcare needs of all Colorado residents. CML will continue working diligently toward this objective.
Other key budget items affecting municipalities include $160 million to expand broadband infrastructure statewide, $5 million in additional grant funding to local governments for renewable and clean energy projects, and $3.7 million in grant funding for local law enforcement agencies to purchase body-worn cameras (bit.ly/38dZEAt). The governor’s plan also would restore some of the $3 billion in spending cuts lawmakers made earlier this year after the pandemic lockdown reduced state revenues. This includes adding money back to K-12 education and higher education to restore them to previous spending levels. The release of the governor’s plan is the first step in the state’s budgetary process.
From December to April, members of the Joint Budget Committee will make funding decisions for the upcoming fiscal year. The state’s fiscal outlook and this budget could change considerably given the outcomes of the four tax- and fee-related ballot measures. Based on these results, the governor and the legislature may have additional money to allocate towards critical services. CML staff will update members on key decisions related to municipal matters.