Colorado Ski Traffic

In this Sept. 8, 2017, time-exposure photo, the sun sets as traffic moves along Interstate 70 west of Denver.

The Colorado House and Senate Thursday afternoon reached a deal on how much to put into the state's underfunded transportation system in the 2019-20 budget.

The 41 House Democrats crowded into Majority Leader Alec Garnett's office to hear that the 2019-20 budget -- Senate Bill 207 -- now includes $300 million for transportation. The House and Senate have agreed to add $70 million over the original proposed budget.

The Senate last week offered an extra $106 million to transportation in the next budget, but House Speaker KC Becker indicated earlier this week that figure was too high. 

After an hour of negotiating Thursday afternoon, Becker and the two Democratic House members of the legislature's Joint Budget Committee announced all caucuses had agreed to $70 million.

Rep. Daneya Esgar of Pueblo, the JBC vice-chair, told the caucus that the decision will not impact any other priority area for Democrats, such as higher education and K-12 funding. 

"We'll have to go into the couch cushions" to find the $70 million, Esgar said.

That's an action that will take place when the amended budget goes back to the JBC, which will negotiate a single bill between the House and Senate versions of the budget for both chambers to vote before the session ends on May 3.

Fellow Democratic JBC member Rep. Chris Hansen of Denver said education stakeholders already have been assured the transportation funding would not impact education's share.

When the House reconvened, Becker and House Republican leader Patrick Neville offered the amendment that put the change into the so-called Long Bill.

The amendment did not identify the source of funds, stating only that "the General Assembly's intent is to increase funding for transportation in the finalized Long Bill ... by $70 million as part of a balanced budget."

The amendment was quickly adopted; Neville then withdrew his earlier amendment  that  would have mandated across-the-board budget cuts in all state agencies. Becker said she believed the amendment was illegal.

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