Governor Orders $99 Million in Budget Cuts, Mesa State Not Affected

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

With the national economy slumping, state leaders say Colorado is starting to feel the effects, prompting Governor Ritter to make almost $100 million in cuts to the state budget. But just what does that mean here in the Grand Valley?

As national leaders try to get their hands around a looming crisis on Wall Street, state leaders say they're dealing with their own financial problems.

"Colorado's economy is continuing to do well, but i don't think we can expect that we will be completely immune from what's going on at Wall Street," said State Representative Bernie Buescher.

Buescher, who chairs the joint budget committee, says national problems have led to an estimated $99 million shortfall in state revenues. As a result, he says he and state leaders from both parties agreed something had to be done.

"We've got to take steps now, not a month from now, not three months from now to make sure we protect the state's budget," said Buescher.

At the request of state legislators, Governor Ritter issued executive orders Thursday, putting a hiring freeze into effect for all state agencies, except those which deal with public safety. He also requested that state universities and agencies delay the start of new construction on state funded projects until January 31 -- a decision Buescher says was not an easy one.

"When you do those construction projects, you create jobs and you help the economy," said Buescher. "But we also have a constitutional obligation to have a balanced budget."

The move will cut $85 million worth of new construction projects. Mesa State officials say fortunately for them, none of their projects were on that list.

"We're going to be judicious and cautious in our construction projects, but we don't have any state funded projects scheduled to start before January anyway," said Dana Nunn, Mesa State College spokesperson.

Nunn says the state government has played a big role in funding things like their new classroom building and the $40 million improvements to Saunders Field House. But because construction on those projects has already begun, they do not fall under the governor's order.

"I appreciate the fact that the governor said don't start anything new as opposed to suggesting that people stop things that were in the middle," said Nunn. "That would've been frustrating."

State leaders say they will receive a new economic projection in December, but for now they're confident these are the only cuts they will have to make. But with so much uncertainty with the national economy, they say it's better to be safe than sorry.

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