March 28, 2019

Denver, CO – Joint Budget Committee Member Senator Rachel Zenzinger (D-Aravada) today delivered the following remarks ahead of the passage of the state’s budget:

As you know, this is my first year on the Joint Budget Committee. When I was selected for the job, everyone told me what power I was going to have. “The all powerful JBC” kind of like the Wizard of Oz, or the captain of the ship of state. What they don’t know, is that the power of the captain is nothing compared to the power of the sea. The reality of the budget is a vast and treacherous ocean. It has its own life and the Captain does not choose where the rocks and reefs will be. Our job is to watch for storms ahead and chart the best possible course we can through the waves. And of course they never really give you the keys to the ship. They give you this tiny dingy running out ahead, and I share it with five other captains.

But it’s been an incredible experience and has shown me the best of what a deliberative body can aspire to be. This budget is a statement of priorities and principles, and it does not reflect a dictum, but a dialog. This budget contains the reasoned and shared values of many distinct viewpoints. It is not the exact plan any of one of us would have arrived at on our own, because it is not a plan for being alone—our budget necessarily speaks to what we can do together. This is Colorado saying who we are and what we want to be, and what we are willing to invest to achieve it. 

I am grateful for the work of my colleagues on the panel, and for the dedication of the departments. I am endlessly amazed by the talent of our nonpartisan JBC staff who truly give their lives to this work, and I am so proud that this year for the first time we opened the doors of the committee chamber and let in the voices of the public to share their stories and their authentic will for the stewardship of their tax dollars. Getting here took the effort, both of our members from my side of the aisle (South of 14th Avenue), and here on the other side of the aisle (North of 14th Avenue).

Working between the buildings, between the chambers, and between the floors, we have created the space for full day kindergarten while paying down the negative factor. We increased higher education funding and greatly improved transportation funding. We have added judges and state troopers. We helped veterans and seniors, our families and our children, our sick and our troubled, our farms and our cities alike, and we honored the Constitution by balancing our budget within the resources we have. 

There was no magic to getting it done. I know we were creative. I think at times we were clever. But I don’t think we were ever geniuses. We got there through hard and sometimes painful ways. We cut in places deeper than we would have wanted to. We deferred projects we would have rather see done. There were moments when I looked at priorities I have fought for and realized I was going to be the one to tell myself no. We all let go of pieces that would just not fit the puzzle, but in the end 32.2 Billion pieces came together. 

56 Capital maintenance projects were approved. There was a 3% raise for State employees. We increased provider rates by at least 1%. We provided $1 Million for family planning.

The budget you have before you represents a process of negotiation, accommodation, and collaboration. It not only sets a prudent foundation for Colorado’s prosperity, but it tells the story of how Colorado at her best gets the job done. We fiercely stand for our independent values while constructively standing together for our shared future. 

On this, the hardest, best piece of legislation it has ever been my honor to work upon, I ask for an aye vote on Senate Bill 207.