Colorado could see $43 million more for air quality monitoring and electric lawn equipment discounts

As part of next year’s budget, state lawmakers have advanced a $66 million funding increase for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, including a significant investment in health programs. air quality.

The $43.4 million in new clean air funds approved by the Joint Budget Committee and House lawmakers would go primarily to the Air Pollution Control Division of the Department of Public Health and Environment. The division’s budget is expected to double next year and it could gain 83 new full-time positions.

Get morning headlines delivered to your inbox

Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, has called for the ‘air quality transformation’ investments as the Environmental Protection Agency is set to downgrade the Denver Metro and North Front Range area from a rapist “serious” to “severe” health standards for ground level ozone. Emissions from sources such as oil and gas facilities and gas-powered lawnmowers mix with sunlight to produce ozone, which can cause asthma, heart disease and other health problems.

The new funding would be used to improve air quality monitoring and provide rebates for electric lawn equipment — easy targets for Republican state representatives backing budget amendments to redirect funds away from government priorities. democrats. An amendment sponsored by Rep. Andy Pico of Colorado Springs would have completely removed new funding for clean air programs.

“What we have is one of the best air qualities in the world,” Pico said Wednesday on the House floor. “These air quality measurements will look at point sources within the state…but the trigger mechanism is from sources outside the state.” He mentioned China and California. Notably, however, the research identified many sources of emissions in the state.

“It doesn’t matter where it comes from,” challenged Rep. Matt Gray, a Democrat from Broomfield. “What matters is how your lungs are doing because of the air quality.”

Although it sparked heated debate, Pico’s amendment failed in a 42-22 vote in the Democratic-led House of Representatives. Only one Republican, Rep. Colin Larson of Littleton, voted against cutting the $43.4 million in new clean air funding.

The budget bill was approved in the House on Thursday. Next week he will head to the Senate, where Democrats also hold a majority.

Income from the CDPHE fund is increasing

While Polis originally requested $52 million over two years to improve air quality, Joint Budget Committee members ultimately approved about $9 million less, but condensed it into one year. More legislation will be needed in the next session to keep the programs in place.

All new one-time funding to the CDPHE for air quality programs comes from the state’s general fund. Comprising primarily revenue from sales taxes and income taxes, the general fund is where legislators have the most control over state spending.

But the treasury, which contains the proceeds of fines and costs, also plays a role in the proposed 9% increase in the CDPHE budget. For one, the department’s share of tobacco-related cash funds is expected to increase by $12.6 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1. Voters approved the EE proposal in 2020 to impose new taxes on cigarettes and vaping products to fund public education, housing and other local programs and programs. Within the CDPHE, taxes are assigned to smoking cessation, education and prevention managed by the department.

A state law passed last year directs $4 million from another cash fund, tied to fines against nursing homes that don’t meet federal requirements, to a grant program within the CDPHE. The program can award grants to proposals that promote innovation while improving care and quality of life in nursing facilities, or that protect and support residents during emergency situations.

Lawmakers try to redirect other CDPHE funds

With $756 million in proposed funding next year, CDPHE has more money to spend than some other state departments.

Besides Pico’s amendment to eliminate CDPHE funding for clean air, other attempts by lawmakers have sought to redirect funding from elsewhere inside the department’s budget.

Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, a Commerce City Democrat, brought forward an amendment that would have cut $150,000 in funding for chronic disease and cancer prevention grants. With $6,000 taken from Charter School Institute-authorized charter school funding instead of local school districts, this would have paid for an additional full-time staff member in the Law Department to conduct pattern or practice investigations. police and government agencies. The amendment failed in a voice vote.

A separate amendment by Republican Representatives Patrick Neville of Castle Rock and Dave Williams of Colorado Springs sought to eliminate $2.5 million for Colorado’s immunization information system within the CDPHE. The system contains immunization records, making it easy for health care providers to check if a child has been vaccinated against certain diseases and ensure they are up to date on recommended immunization schedules.

This amendment also failed in a voice vote.

Comments are closed.