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January 07, 2009 07:41 AM UTC

Helping the State of Colorado through the downturn

  • by: DavidThi808

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Ok, we’re in a world of hurt. And just like the rest of us, the state has to cut back as its budget tightens. Unfortunately, at the same time, we need the state to actually provide more as the number of unemployed and under-employed increases.

The first reaction in a lot of cases like this is to cut expenses. It’s fast, it’s easy, and if you cut enough, you hit the targets. However, it’s also the least efficient way of doing this.

For the last 30 years I’ve worked in the high-tech industry and our whole effort has been to enable people and companies to do more for less. (Well, that and in the spare time, provide new ways of entertaining you.)

A much harder, but more efficient response, is to find ways to provide the same services at a lower cost. So let’s hear it from everyone here, where can the state become more efficient.

And please, not the generic “cut the fat” or “fire the slackers”, but let’s hear of specific places where systemic change can bring about significant savings.


45 thoughts on “Helping the State of Colorado through the downturn

    • All medical providers that get state health money must use an interconnected computer system for all medical records, treatment, etc. It is estimated that doing this will cut 5 – 15% off the medical bill total.
    • Fully fund preventitive health care for those without insurance. Treating problems in the emergency room is the most expensive way of doing so. This should reduce total medical outlays.
    • Comprehensive publicly available reviews of all medical practioners. Incompetent doctors are expensive as it requires additional cost to make up for their mistakes. Empowering everyone to find quality care eliminates a lot of this.
    • Decriminalize drug use. This will drastically reduce our prision costs, and it’s a better way to handle a mental sickness.
    • Throughout the state look for ways to improve the system. On drivers licenses for example, most of that could be done by individuals at computers, with one employee watching to make sure no one has help when taking the test. For any one department it’s a small savings. But across the state – it adds up to a lot.
    • Centralize parts of the local school system that are more efficient handled state wide such as purchasing, auditing, central IT, etc.
    1. except that almost all of them involve either higher short term expense or years of planning, and we’re in a short-term budget crisis. You make costly systemic changes that will result in long-term savings when times are good. Right now “cut the fat” plus a good deal of muscle and probably some bone is about all that’s feasible.

      1. I just paid mine, and they were cheap. Of course, I drive a ten year-old car, but only raising it a couple bucks could bring in some revenue.

              1. The Guv has been very effective at using these venues to increase the state draw on your pocket book.

                The funny angle here is that I’d would not be surprised to see dbruce making a court case out of redstate’s argument.

                Vehicle license fees going up $25-100

          1. a ‘fee’ and not a tax in the legal meaning of the term?   If so, it should be doable without an election.  It would help to sanctify such a legislative change if Republicans and Democrats would ‘circle the wagons’ and agree not to snipe at each other over it.  “User fees” have been a primary response to revenue shortfalls in many states, including this one.  I can’t see how it will be avoidable.

            I agree that car registration is very low in this state.  I think it could be raised yearly by 20-15-10 bucks a year over time without causing a whole lot of pain.  Especially attractive if earmarked to ‘highway-only’ purposes, to include maintainance, repair, upgrading.  Actually, maintenance, repair and upgrading would likelly be among the MOST ‘shovel-ready’ projects with the least amount of time delay to employing people.  These contracts could also be packaged in smaller pieces, so that small businesses could effectively compete for them.  

            1. There are both taxes and fees associated with registering a vehicle in Colorado. The majority of this revenue is gathered by license fees.

              Fees are based on the empty weight and type of vehicle being registered.

              Additional fees may be collected based on county of residence and license plate selected.

              There are also ownership taxes that are determined by a variety of factors, and newer cars pay more in tax than older cars. You pay tax whether you drive the vehicle or not.

              These taxes are based on the year of manufacture of the vehicle and the original taxable value which is determined when the vehicle is new and does not change throughout the life of the vehicle.

              Ownership tax is in lieu of personal property tax. Vehicles do not need to be operated in order to be assessed this tax.

              The ownership tax rate is assessed on the original taxable value and year of service

              Original taxable value is 85% of manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP).

              The annual specific ownership tax is based on the year of service.


              So you can raise the fees, as Joe Rice has brought up. Rice’s idea was to apply the raised fees solely for the purpose of highway funding.  

    2. First, understand that priming the pump with more government spending at any level is unlikely to stimulate the economy.

      Second, what’s needed is consumer confidence. Until consumers feel more secure about their jobs and finances, they won’t spend enough to revive the economy. Right now, consumers are becoming more frugal, reducing debt and saving. While this is good for the consumers, it’s hurting the economy. Government spending and higher taxes and fees won’t give consumers the confidence or ability to spend.

      Third, recessions are cyclical. They can’t be prevented or shortened by government spending or even tax cuts. They have to be allowed to run their course as quickly as possible, painful as that may be. Trying to soften the pain only prolongs it and hurts more people longer.

      So, it is ok if the government spends less, because its spending does not help the economy.

      This means the goal should be to put state finances in as good shape as possible so that it will recover as fast as possible when the world and U.S. recession bottoms out.

      Broadly speaking, Ritter should promise that he won’t sign any bills that involve increased state spending of any kind. He should force all departments to cut spending. The General Assembly joint budget committee should be the first line of defense. Instead of spending more to stimulate the economy, spend less to keep the state budget balanced in a time of declining income tax revenues.

      Employers avoid and leave states that have high taxes and are drawn to states that have relatively low taxes and are in good condition financially. They don’t care how state colleges are funded or how much is spent promoting tourism to tourists that are in no mood to tour.

      States that are in good financial shape will recover from the recession much faster than NY, California, Michigan and other financially troubled states.

      So while we can’t prevent an increase in unemployment or a decline in income tax revenues, we can prepare the state for a good recovery whenever the world and U.S. economies bottom out and begin to recover.

      1. has already asked all agencies to cut 2.5% and has

        trimmed his budget
        so that it grows by roughly 4% rather than the allowable 6%.  Cutting essential services will not help consumer confidence.  It just reminds us that we’re fucked.

        As far as good financial shape, we can’t ever be as bad as California for instance.  When our state runs out of cash, we can’t write anymore checks.  It won’t help us out of a recession, thanks in a gigantic part to the impending expiration of Ref. C.  It just takes us back to cutting essential services.

      2. Skeptic is WRONG.

        Money must be spent to stimulate the economy. Basically 3 groups spend money. Consumers, business and government. Consumers are not spending and neither is business.

        1. What Obama and Ritter are promoting is centralized planning by politicians.

          Politicians are people who almost never made it in business as entrepreneurs. They’re lawyers and heirs, not creative folks.

          Centralized planners who want to pick the winners and losers—greenies vs. drillers—are no better than the average stock picker who’s lucky to be right half of the time.

          The difference between stock pickers, venture capitalists, private equity investors and politicians is that the former know how to manage their risks and cut their losses short. Politicians, on the other hand, create programs and seldom cut their losses before they’ve created a lot of hurt for the economy, if not for themselves.

          If you think Obama and Ritter—neither of whom has invested in nor run anything that involved putting themselves at personal financial risk—can make better investment decisions than the markets and private investors, you don’t know the history of centralized planning.

          Here’s the problem. The gov. throws billions at a particular initiative, which often fails and becomes a pork barrel toy for politicians and consultants. Investors diversify their risks. They may invest in, say, alternative energy, but they invest in several companies and opportunities.

          The government makes big mistakes and investors make relativley little ones. The government’s successes are marginal, at best. Some investors create Microsofts, Oracles, IBMs and Walmarts.

          If investors won’t put their money into alternative energy businesses without government subsidies, the investments are lousy and should be avoided by both private investors and the government.

          Politicians don’t get that, however. Their political careers mean more to them, and if they can attract campaign contributions form bond consultants (Bill Richardson, et al) and other pay to play schemes, they’ll use government money to advance their careers.

          For them, it’s all about power. Screw the voter.

          1. and yet you never seem to make any sense. I’ve gotten to the point where I read your first paragraph and your last paragraph, conclude it’s dumb, and skip all the rest.

            Saves me a lot of time on this blog.

          2. The government makes big mistakes and investors make relativley little ones. The government’s successes are marginal, at best. Some investors create Microsofts, Oracles, IBMs and Walmarts.

            Government invests in people, not projects.  That’s what all this crap is for.  Safe roads, for people.  Good schools, for people.  Health care, for people.

            Isn’t it fair to say that a person that’s educated by and in at least one case fed by (food stamps) government (particularly when they wouldn’t have another way to do these things), is a government success?  I realize it’s broad, but so are almost all of your comments.  Screw you.

              1. When the government educates it’s citizens with schools, provides roads for commerce, etc – those are investments that pay off many times over.

                When the government pays for the Ronald Reagan Memorial ice rink – that’s spending.

                1. But there is no question that public schools, clean water, sewage facilities and roads are critical infrastructure investments. It’s when the teachers’ union wins an Amendment 23, which puts money into teachers’ pockets instead of improving education that investments become pork barrel spending.

                  1. Government is inherently evil at all levels and all politicians are power hungry fools. (Eye roll)  Pick a position and own it.  Your flopping is only separated by a single comment.  You can do better.

                    Please don’t call children pork.  It’s rude.  Especially considering something like 5% of Denver is Jewish, at least half of us are kosher.

    1. The Guv. is make use of the pirate process … raid cash funds, then make tax payers refill them over the following 3-8 years.

      Along the way jack up the fees employers and others pay to fill these funds.

      Soon I think we’ll hear many stories about state spending … the use it or lose it mentality, wasteful inside dealing outsourcing contracts delivered to friends, ridiculous increases in new state staff to oversee existing programs, wasteful contracts to support subjective litigious efforts not in the interest of taxpayers. $50k here and there soon develops into $200 million.

      1. This was the exact same tactic used by Bill Owens during the fiscal crisis of 2003-04; raid cash funds (which  never got repaid, by the way) as well as raiding the statutory reserve.

  1. …and away from New Mexico, which is making millions off Hollywood with their tax breaks and transferable tax credit programs.

    Here’s the math – the average Hollywood film with a budget of $65 million spends between $150K-$250K A DAY when filming on location. That goes directly into the local economy, be it to hotels, retail, crew, actors whatever.

    When “NoWhereLand” filmed in Colorado in 2007, $3.25 million was spent in Colorado in 12 days. If we had the same incentives as NM, they could’ve spent $30 Million.

    It’s insane that the Repubs in this state always oppose the Colorado Film Initiative whenever it comes up. They’re not opposed to tax cuts and incentives for the Energy Industry (or anyone else for that matter), but they manage to work themselves into a foaming seizure when they think about giving Hollywood a dime.

    We used to have a huge film industry in this state – and since the Film Industry is the only one with a trade surplus, why wouldn’t we try and bring it back?

    1. There really is no reason Colorado should not be competitive with New Mexico with the diversity of our landscapes, cities/towns and the creative talent available.

      Maybe somebody here recalls more details, but I believe there was an effort to increase film incentives last year that failed due to a lack of support and some who supported the idea but thought the package being suggested was too small to be relevant.

      Not only has New Mexico benefited from the hundreds of millions spent on productions in there state, but also from the studios, production and post production facilities that have been built there and made NM a satellite location with a permanent presence.

      1. Take care of the industries that are here by ensuring that their taxes won’t rise and that special interests don’t make it difficult for them to profit and grow.

        For example, get the environmentalists off the backs of energy producers.

        1. Controlling taxes and making Colorado an attractive place to do business are important.  In the battle between environmental protection and the NIMBY crowd vs. energy producers, I think there is a balance that most rational people would agree on so I agree that the special interests can’t be allowed to call the shots (I’d say the special interests on any/either side).

          Regarding the film industry, do you object to tax incentives to attract the business?  Is that an across the board objection?  If I recall, Broomfield offered some tax incentives to attract a windpower R&D and manufacturing business.  Would you/did you think that was a bad move?  Any incentives other than business regulation control you do support?

          1. The big problem is that naive elected officials go up against savvy business people seeking subsidies and lose.

            Make the state a great place for every business and you won’t need subsidies. Otherwise, politicians are playing favorites and discriminating against businesses that want to be part of the community as well as moochers.

            1. …New Mexico saw an astronomical leap in filming when they passed their tax cuts, credits, and incentives. Three major studios relocated in NM when the ink was dry on the law, and they’ve pumped millions in Albuquerque ‘s economy.

              Films are shot budget first, location second. 3:10 to Yuma did NOT film in Colorado because we had no incentives, not because we didn’t have great locations.

              Target an industry that is expanding and is spending money, match it with great business incentives and they will come.

              Even if you could create your Libertarian Fantasyland of the perfect business place, then that targeted industry still doesn’t have an incentive to come…

              1. Make the state a good place for all to do business, not a pork project for film companies that are in a community for a month and then gone forever.

                1. …once they wrap production on their latest Anti-Conservative movies.

                  The Lionsgate studio is a $74 million dollar complex. They’re not planning on leaving anytime soon, considering how much gear, soundstage equipment and people they’ve moved from LA to this place.

                  THAT could’ve been built here in Colorado, along with 2 others that are current going up in Tamalewood. Thanks to the Knee-Jerk Conservative Repubs in the State Legislature, we didn’t get that business because they couldn’t bring themselves to help Evil LIberal Hollywood.


        2. and very many of them. We had a film shot here several years ago and I think every business and even some folks that just wanted to pick up trash made money. They spend pretty freely and that money just went to all of the existing businesses. Additionally, there is a real opportunity to develop more and more profitable post production facilities.

          1. There’s still a perception in this industry that Denver is a CowTown when it comes to Post Production. There’s still only three major for-hire facilities (Crosspoint, Post Modern and Base2) with a new facility in Arvada (Mrs K) shipping most of the final work to Minneapolis.

            That doesn’t mean that the Colo Film Incentive wouldn’t create more smaller, speciality houses that would do work on traditional post, as well as the growing gaming industry in the state. Or, create more Crew and Craft jobs.  

  2. Is that film incentives was the only suggestion outside of mine which was not raise some taxes/fees, general cuts in spending, or raiding some funds stashed wherever.

    Maybe it’s my background but to me the state should have a major focus on where they can become more efficient and where they can stop doing something. This improvement in efficiency is what the private sector switches to with a vengence in a downturn.

      1. If we can provide services with 2 less people in an office then yes, you are looking at a layoff. But that savings can then go to say funding to help additional poor kids attend college. There is a limited number of dollars and so spending it as effectively as possible makes sense.

        But it also includes having people perform different jobs. The state will not run with zero employees. Having people work on the things that provide the most for the state is a significant win.

        And in both cases it sure beats fire 2.5% of your people across the board.

    1. Efficiency is a management determination usually applied to for-profit business. And, by the nature of the work done by government, will always be inefficient…and certainly will never generate a profit.

      Let’s take Law Enforcement – if a crime is committed,  one or more police officers are assigned to do at least a preliminary investigation. If it is a serious crime, forensic specialists may be assigned, inquires must be made against databases, and time and effort must be spent to (eventually) arrest, charge, try and (possibly) confine the suspect.

      All regardless if the crime was a capital offense, felony or misdemeanor. If the crime committed was a vandalism charge that cost someone $500, isn’t it completely inefficient to spent tens of thousands of dollars to enforce the law?

      Of course it is – but that’s NOT a consideration when operating a government. Many of the functions of a healthy gov’t, such as the Military or Environmental Protection will not return more capital than it expends to perform it’s overall mission.

      You can make the processes of these functions more efficient, but ultimately, gov’t is not a profit-generation entity, and will always be inefficient.

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