Colorado’s Revenue Base

A revenue base is the money available for taxation that can be used for funding public priorities. As state lawmakers convene throughout the 2022 legislative session and we start to see the 2022 ballot take shape, it is crucial to examine the past and future statewide revenue base to bring a brighter focus on the fiscal picture in Colorado. To do this, the Bell Policy Center has produced a research series culminating in part three (above) which utilizes findings from parts one and two while examining the role across-the-board tax cuts and TABOR restrictions have had on Colorado’s available funding. An influx of one-time federal funding and soaring growth for Colorado’s highest income earners obscures the fact that public investment in Colorado’s communities has remained stagnant.

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 has to think long-term and not be distracted by short-term highs. Permanent changes can lead to real negative consequences when the current economic conditions change.

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.

Part 2 of this report looks at the current trends and future projections around three essential and mandated programs: K-12 education, state share of Medicaid spending, and Department of Corrections. The General Fund spending from these programs will make up more than 50% of total General Fund spending into the future. These projections, along with other rising costs associated with a growing and aging population, will make crafting a budget in Colorado very difficult and result in many programs fighting over a smaller and smaller piece of the budget.

Charts & Graphics