Budget Cuts You Might Have Missed

This week brought members of the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) back to Denver to begin reconciling a state budget decimated by COVID-19. Charged with closing an estimated $3 billion hole, members considered a host of devastating options to reduce state expenditures. Some of the potential budget cuts are massive in size and impact, and include reducing financial aid for colleges and universities, decreasing funding for K-12 schools, and cutting monies for Area Agencies on Aging.

These reductions are so massive, and undercut some of our most valued, public-facing, and effective programs that it’s easy to overlook the hundreds of other cuts JBC members are being asked to consider. While allocations to many of these programs are relatively small, their collective impact is anything but. They fund essential functions of our government, patch and expand a network of preventative services, and are tailored to meet the needs of individual communities across the state. Many are effective programs, evidence-based and important to the health and well-being of our communities.

This week, we’ve heard how reductions in state funding would impact efforts that:

Provide Transparency & Support Evidence-Based Decisions

Effective public policy relies upon quality information and data. Without it, we struggle to make informed decisions and identify both gaps and meaningful solutions. The All Payer Claims Database (APCD) provides this type of data in the heath care arena. With roots in the 2008 Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Reform, the APCD has been essential in helping the state, research institutions, and watchdog groups evaluate policies, understand gaps in access to care, and develop meaningful solutions.

Possible action: General Fund reduction of up to $3.2 million

Patch Holes in a One-Size-Fits-All Preventative Care Network

No singular program — no matter how inclusive or comprehensive — can meet the needs of all Coloradans. That’s why supplemental programs exist, to fill smaller, but often glaring, holes. We see the effectiveness of efforts like these in the likes of the Senior Dental Program. Serving over 3,000 low-income older adults in FY 2018-2019, this program has both immediate and long-term benefits. While gathering community input for our recently released Aging Agenda, we repeatedly heard about the lack of quality dental care and the range of ramifications for the health and well-being of older adults.

Possible action: General Fund reduction of $1 million

Offer Tailored Support to Communities Throughout the State

Colorado is diverse, a reality often reflected in our budget by a host of tailored programs that allow for community-driven solutions. As detailed in many reports, including those by the Department of Higher Education on teacher shortages, specialized solutions can be especially helpful in rural areas, where statewide challenges are magnified. That’s why we’ve developed initiatives like the Rural Teaching Fellowship program, which provides stipends for those who commit to training and remaining in a rural school district upon obtaining their license.

Possible action: General Fund reduction of $500,000

The programs listed above are just three of the hundreds discussed by JBC members this week. These and each of the others up for reduction or elimination was created for a reason, and in many cases, we’ve seen them make real differences in the lives of Coloradans. They’ve been effective in bolstering existing systems, capturing essential data, and providing entirely new, but essential, services. Many are proven programs that have demonstrably made Coloradans healthier, happier, and more secure.

Our JBC members have been thoughtful in wading through Colorado’s programs, looking for ways to reduce expenses in the least harmful way possible. But more than simply showing the difficulty of cutting costs, their conversations have also made clear we need more revenue. Whether from the federal government or new state sources, additional funds would take away some of the difficult choices in front of us. While it won’t solve all our problems, it can mitigate some of the impact — a reality which will have meaningful impacts for families and communities throughout Colorado.

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