TBD Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper's effort to listen and learn about issues important to Coloradans, has reached a milestone. The group's board of directors today released policy recommendations, based on "an important conclusion: the state is on an unsustainable fiscal course." (See below)
That's a conclusion we share. What to do now? Since the decision ultimately will be up to Colorado voters, we believe the path forward starts with a broad conversation about our state's future.
That's why we helped produced Colorado: Boom or Bust, a television special intended to start a kitchen-table conversation about our state budget. Coincidentally, it is on Colorado Public Television-Channel 12 tonight at 8 p.m. We encourage you to watch the program, consider the recommendations from TBD and then join in an important conversation.
Here is the "core finding" from the TBD Colorado board of directors:
Colorado's Path Unsustainable Without Major Fiscal
and Constitutional Reforms
TBD Colorado participants, following many hours of informed conversation over the year, arrived at an important conclusion: the state is on an unsustainable fiscal course.
Of particular concern are three relatively recent Constitutional amendments – TABOR, Gallagher and Amendment 23 – whose combined effects have created an unsustainable fiscal structure. These measures have constrained the flexibility of elected officials to adjust the state's tax structure to respond to revenue needs for essential, highly valued services. For example, the measures have:
- Created an imbalance between commercial and residential property taxes, which has had the effect of shifting the responsibility for funding K12 education from local school districts to the state, diminishing local control of school districts;
- Made it difficult to fund transportation options so that the infrastructure can be maintained and expanded to serve a growing state; and
- Required the impossible-increased spending (Amendment 23) while reducing revenue (Gallagher and TABOR).
- Our state has endless positive potential. Important, forward-facing actions and decisions must be made to ensure a vibrant future. Analysts from across the political spectrum may disagree on the proper course for the state, but they agree that the current fiscal structure is unsustainable.
In recent years, the state's revenues have not kept pace with the underlying growth in the Colorado economy because many of the fastest-growing sectors are either exempt from tax or are taxed at a lower rate than other sectors. Even though Colorado's revenues are now increasing as the economy begins to recover, the state will be unable to grow its way out of the coming fiscal gridlock unless structural changes are made. Projected demographic shifts, such as an aging population and the increased medical costs that flow from that, will only accelerate the stresses on the state's budget.
Respecting the role of Colorado voters, who have ultimate authority on increasing taxes, revenue options must be weighed against public services Coloradans wish to receive.
Coloradans need to have an honest, informed conversation about what its future should look like and how to realistically achieve it. TBD Colorado's 2012 initiative offers a foundation upon which Coloradans can undertake a process to sync Colorado's public policies with Coloradan's values and aspirations.
For more information on TBD Colorado and its recommendations, click here.