Opponents of Prop CC Argue that Colo Needs to Change Its Budget “Priorities.” But How?

(Just tap into that secret stash of gold bars in the Capitol basement! — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Throughout their successful campaign to defeat Propostion CC, opponents of the ballot measure argued that the state of Colorado doesn’t need more money. It just needs to change its budget priorities. But how?

“I’m not going to do it tonight after two beers,” former GOP Gov. Bill Owens joked at yesterday’s celebration of opponents of Prop CC, which would have dedicated TABOR refunds to education and transportation.
“It’s not my job anymore to do the budget, but I do believe that state needs to make it a priority to live within these normal increased means, just as we do,” he said.
I think government has to make a very good case for more than what it gets now,” Owens continued. “I’m not greedy. I’m fully willing to fund government. But there comes a point when we have a right to say, ‘You guys have enough unless you can convince me otherwise.'”

“Transportation isn’t just being underfunded because of a tight budget; it’s being underfunded because of a choice. My priorities would be transportation and education, and just narrow it,” said Owens, declining to say where he’d get the budget dollars to fund his priorities.

A couple notables in the anti-CC crowd pointed to healthcare as a source of money for other projects.

“You know what we got to get on top of is health care,” said former GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Robinson, saying unspecified reform is needed along with more competition among hospitals.

Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute, a right-leaning think tank, also pointed to Medicaid as growing “way beyond budget projections.”

In fact, Medicaid expenditures are a driver of increases in Colorado’s budget.

“We have to deal with Medicaid,” said Kopel. “It can’t be done in some cruel way taking care away from someone with real disabilities. But I think there are ways it can be made more efficient and, in some cases, even improve the quality of care and patient satisfaction. And I do think that able-bodied adults should not be on Medicaid.”

But it’s not clear how to save much money by cutting Medicaid–without being cruel.

Why? Because it’s the long-term care of the growing elderly population that’s driving Medicaid’s cost increases, as the Bell Policy Center repeatedly points out. Long-term care is not covered by Medicare, which is federal health insurance for the elderly. Older people, who may have had private insurance when they were younger, turn to Medicaid when they’ve spent down their savings on long-term care.

It’s why elderly and disabled people account for about 12 percent of Medicaid recipients but chew up 42 percent of its costs.

So, you run into problems if you say, “Let’s get Medicaid costs under control by trimming the part that’s driving up costs.”

If you focus on “able-bodied” adults on Medicaid in Colorado, you find most are already working, albeit at low wages, and were added as a result of Obamacare, which commits to pay for 90 percent of Colorado’s cost to cover them.

As a result, relatively little money would be saved by cutting able-bodied people from Medicaid. And it’s unclear how many Medicaid recipients who are referred to as “able-bodied” are, in fact, able-bodied. And among the ones that are truly able-bodied, many have simply hit hard times and getting short-term help, as envisioned by the Medicaid law.

Other anti-CC party goers last night pointed to a proposal to raise money for transportation project through bond sales.

Michael Fields, who directs Colorado Rising Action, would like to see the Legislature commit to extending this year’s increased funding for transportation indefinitely, using the transportation funds for a bonding program to leverage more money.

Democrats have called the bonding proposal irresponsible, because it commits the state to making debt payments without having a sustainable source of money within the general fund to pay for them.

Fields also thinks the school funding formula should be changed to direct money from wealthy school districts to school districts in lower income areas.

“The revenue is there,” said Fields.

That’s what opponents of Proposition CC said throughout the campaign.

They said it on their website: “State government has enough money – it just needs to prioritize better.”

They said it in in interviews and debates.

But for now, details are lacking on how they propose to do this.

Meanwhile, proponents of Prop CC say the money isn’t there. And it wouldn’t have been there, they say, even if the measure had won.

“Had Prop CC passed, it would not have been nearly enough to backfill decades of under-investment in our transportation and education systems,” said Carol Hedges, director of the progressive Colorado Fiscal Institute, in a news release. “Colorado is under-funding our public schools by over $500 million every year, our transportation budget still has an estimated $9 billion deficit compared to the needs of our growing state, and cuts to higher education mean students and families continue to shoulder nearly two-thirds of the cost of college.”

“Prop CC passing would have helped,” she continued, “but there remain deep inequities in our constitutional tax code that make it so people who earn low incomes—who are more likely to be people of color—pay higher overall tax rates than the wealthy. If we truly want to build a state that works for everyone then we need to amend the constitution.”

5 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MADCO says:

    Hmm- word salad. Needs bacon, Rs , lots of bacon

  2. JohnInDenver says:

    Wouldn't you think that TABOR, in place since 1992, would have provided sufficient incentive to develop "priorities" for spending? 

    Colorado has been jumping on increasing fees and finding new niche taxes for designated purposes.  Governments have asked for exemptions with middling success. 

    I wonder if someone could develop stories of "instead of taxes, I had to pay $xxx for [some good or service]."  A neighbor just had to pay for a tire alignment after hitting a pot hole.  I've had to pay to replace a windshield from a rock thrown up by a truck.  State park camping spaces cost friends who like to camp but don't have mobility to hike.  Of course the medical amounts for people could be alarming.  The anecdote of a recent school board candidate who went out and bought window fans and then installed them in an un-airconditioned school might work.

    What else has "state priorities" shifted onto you and yours?

    • kwtree says:

      What else has "state priorities" shifted onto you and yours?

      Teachers routinely buy basic school supplies for their classes: pencils, paper, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, rewards and incentives – out of their own meager salaries. Some set up go fund me pages or do candy or bake sales to fund field trips, musical instruments, theater costs. All school arts and humanities programs struggle for funding, except in the very wealthiest districts with ample property tax bases.

      Arts fundraisers take up time and energy, and typically sell overpriced and unhealthy goods to a long-suffering community.  Somehow, sports programs usually find  donors among local businesses that then advertise in the program or on banners. 

      Nobody’s paying for school funding that has proven results: more adults (paraprofessionals and teachers and social workers and  nurses and counselors) in the schools. Instead million dollar testing and curriculum consultants exploit the poorest schools, promising magical, speedy cures for low test scores. There just isn’t a bake sale that can fix that.


  3. 2Jung2Die says:

    Salzman's story goes to the point I'm about to try making, but I'd object to the word "argued" in the phrase "argued that the state of Colorado doesn’t need more money" from the 2nd line. It's not an argument, it's stone cold messaging, a talking point designed to quell deeper thought in case there's any danger of that. It's never backed up with detail or analysis or consideration of consequences of cutting things in ways that can harm real people. And yes, they're successful with that approach.

  4. NotHopeful says:

    I'm going back on my soapbox about schools.

    Start by dumping all state-mandated testing unless and until those tests have a real and meaningful impact on students. That means, to me, that you don't move to the next grade unless you get a 70-75 percent, minimum, on that state-mandated test that is based on standards for that grade. That means, to me, that you don't graduate high school unless you get a 70-75 percent, minimum, on a comprehensive test of knowledge administered at the end of senior year. 

    Then gut school district bureaucracies. No district should have more than two assistant or deputy superintendents. Period. We should require that 75% of all funding provided a district by the state go to classrooms (that means teachers, libraries, equipment, books, and other teaching materials). Kids don't learn because there are fourteen layers of "management" above a teacher. And privatize anything that isn't essential to teaching and learning, including bus operations, janitorial services, maintenance, landscaping services, and food services.

    Re-open vocational education options in every middle school and high school. Not every kid wants to go to college and not every kid needs to go to college.

    Require all schools to have a fully functional school library with a staff librarian.

    Require all schools at all levels to teach art and music and require all students to take these classes. Fewer district bureaucrats means more money for this.

    Terminate all "credit recovery" programs. Kids who can't pass in the high school in which they are enrolled should look elsewhere for a "second chance" to do so. That's what the GED is for, after all.

    Stop discouraging teachers from giving failing grades. Kids learn to be resilient and a work ethic when teachers hold them to high standards. Denying teachers the right to give a failing grade when it is appropriate to do so means that school administrators are telling teachers and students that effort by a learner, persistence by a learner, and commitment from a learner are irrelevant. That's not the message we should send.

    Stop trying to integrate all special education students into general education classrooms. Yes, I know that such integration is mandated by federal law. Resist, at least in the cases of those with severe physical, intellectual, and emotional disabilities. Those students are very unlikely to behave appropriately in the general education classroom, their presence means that the teacher's time is taken away to far too great of a degree from other students, and their needs are probably better met in a specialized learning environment (in many cases, anyway). And, by the way, most schools don't provide enough para-professionals or special education teachers to assure that the help necessary for special education students in a general education classroom is available.

    Massively simplify teacher licensure programs, which are essentially a waste of time and money devoted to indoctrination in the latest "research" fad or two. Allow teacher candidates to complete all coursework online, focus that coursework on subject area content for the most part with a lot less demand to study "pedagogy," and cut the paperwork to the greatest extent possible.

    Quit emphasizing current educational "research" to the degree that it holds sway now. That "research" is generally not based on statistically reliable populations of study (they are often way too small) and cannot be considered, under any circumstances, to represent reliable scientific knowledge. Experience is a better teacher, anyway, and one thing it teaches is that schools should not be places where all social problems are fixed. They can't be in the schools.

    Schools are here to build in our children an appreciation of our common culture and our individual cultures, our democratic ideals and our republican (small r) traditions, our form of government and our history, the long sweep of scientific knowledge, and the skills and confidence needed to build a life. So start teaching some more practical skills (budgets, getting a job, cooking, etc.) along with the academics. And, for the love of common sense, stop using the classroom or the school as a whole as a place to encourage kids to hate our country. Yes, teach them about our flaws, our mistakes, our injustices, our cruelties, our foolishness, our wrong-headed actions, our evil deeds, yes, but teach them, too, that it's because they have freedom of thought and freedom of expression that these things can change.


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