DU report alerts Colorado legislators to long-term budgetary problems
In 2010, the Colorado General Assembly enacted Senate Joint Resolution 10-002, which requested that the University of Denver undertake a comprehensive study of the financing of state and local government in Colorado. The task was undertaken by the University’s Center for Colorado’s Economic Future (CCEF).
The center has a track record for nonpartisan research and outreach, including a 2009 report titled “Colorado’s State Budget Tsunami.”
The first phase of the report was released in February 2011. Its findings are expected to complement another report, due in fall 2011, from DU’s Strategic Issues Program on the future of state government.
The first installment of the CCEF report presented some dire news for Colorado legislators. According to the center, Colorado’s budgetary woes are both cyclical and structural. Even if the state enjoys a strong economic recovery and sustained job growth over the next decade and a half, income and sales tax revenue will fall far short of what Colorado needs simply to pay its share of Medicaid funding and its payment for public schools under current constitutional and statutory provisions.
Charlie Brown, director of the center, noted that results of the first-phase report will guide future phases, including suggestions for long-term planning, curbing the impact of tax volatility, new ways to fund schools, strategies for funding health care, alternate funding sources for capital needs and revenue system reforms.
Perhaps most important, the report is designed to be easily updatable so that it doesn’t become what Brown calls a “static document sitting in someone’s office.”
“The report is designed as a robust series of dynamic models that we can update as circumstances change,” he explained. “It will never be out of date, which is something we’re really proud of.”
Funding for the report came from nine Colorado foundations: El Pomar Foundation, Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, Colorado Health Foundation, Rose Community Foundation, Boettcher Foundation, Gates Family Foundation, Piton Foundation, Colorado Trust and Kaiser Permanente Foundation.
“Our hope is that this report becomes a point of consensus about the problems that need to be solved,” Brown said. “With this report, people can quit arguing about the facts, focus on solutions and model those solutions over the long term.”