Colorado’s Revenue Base

As 2021 comes to an end and we head into 2022, the Bell Policy Center will examine the past and future statewide revenue base to bring a brighter focus on the fiscal picture in Colorado. A series of three reports will shed light on Colorado’s past revenue while also looking ahead to how our growing state will be able to handle the needs of its people. This will be shown through research and data analysis.

To preface, a revenue base is a basic way of knowing the universe of money available for taxation that will be reliably available in a sustainable manner. In Colorado, that is mostly individual income tax revenue and statewide sales tax revenue. As these sources ebb and flow with economy-wide peaks and valleys, the Bell Policy Center will take a step back, look at the big picture, and determine how that maps to the needs of our growing state.

Part 1 of this series looks at the past, and how, since 1992, our General Fund has shifted alongside permanent changes to our revenue base. It will also look at how our legislature and voters have added growing commitments to our budget without necessarily understanding how the long-term revenue base will be affected. These will be shown through inflation and population-adjusted numbers to be able to compare the past and present, and how even as our state has grown and increased in personal income, our revenue base has not kept up with that progression.

As our state ponders our fiscal future at the ballot and during legislative sessions, it is vital to be armed with proper data and information. Colorado cannot be distracted by short-term highs, as we know permanent changes can lead to long-term lows. 

Our state’s revenue base is a pot of money we can rely on long into the future. Understanding how it is comprised will help us make decisions of how to proceed in a fiscally prudent manner. Read Part 1 of the Bell’s new series on Colorado’s revenue base now. We’ll update this page with the next installments as they are released.