Reminder: Colorado Remains Screwed, Epic Battle Looms

As the Denver Post reports:

Just when it seemed Colorado’s economy was improving, tax collections are backsliding and there are new worries the state budget will be $150 million to $300 million deeper in the hole than expected, a top lawmaker warned Thursday.

As a result, colleges and universities – spared from cuts during the legislative session – might take a hit next year, said Sen. Moe Keller, D-Wheat Ridge, chairwoman of the Joint Budget Committee…

The prospect of renewed budget woes also has added fuel to discussions about long-term fiscal solutions that could include tax hikes or changes to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in the state constitution. [Pols emphasis]

State tax collections for May were $77 million below projections, Keller said, and economists believe income-tax payments that are still being collected may come up as much as $80 million less than expected.

Legislative leaders say that probably means the state will be short in the current budget year that ends June 30, a prospect that could require an emergency withdrawal of cash funds slated for the next year’s budget, which begins July 1.

The Post goes on to note that while legislators were reluctant to get something comprehensive in terms of TABOR and budget reform in front of voters this session, there is a growing realization that political expediency or no, the state can’t wait until 2011 to deal with the problem.

If a comprehensive constitutional fix emerges in 2010 for the state’s interlocking budgetary restrictions and conflicting mandates, it will be the biggest fight between the state’s ideological machinery seen at least since 2005’s Referendum C, and probably much bigger–it won’t be the temporary stopgap measure Referendum C was, and because of Referendum C’s impending expiration it will have a sense of urgency behind it that last year’s Amendment 59 didn’t. It will be viewed on both sides as a battle for the state’s very soul and future, and we could end up talking about it every bit as much as the gubernatorial race itself.

Or maybe they’ll already be inextricably linked by then anyway? You can imagine what Josh Penry will have to say about any attempt to spit-roast the sacred cow of TABOR.

20 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DavidThi808 says:

    I wrote one at the same time as this one apparently. So here’s my $0.02 worth from it:

    Gee, it’s nice to see that they are going to wait till we are totally screwed before starting to look at how to fix things. Nothing like waiting until after we are totally screwed.

    Attention legislators & Gov – you need to take a serious look today at:

    1) Not putting low-level drug user in prison. That alone could drastically reduce the number of prison beds needed.

    2) Decriminalizing drugs. The state spends an incredible amount of money criminalizing mental health issues and in the course of that making it a much more expensive problem.

    3) Unscrewing the budget mess in the constitution (which is much more than just TABOR). And that will probably require a constitutional convention, which means timing wise that they need to start now to get step 1 of the convention process on the ’09 ballot.

    4) Have the state support small & medium business in this state (at present, outside of green, the state’s actions to small business run the gamut from neglect to hostility). Why? Because that will increase sales & income tax revenue.

  2. TaxCheatGeithner says:

    Waiting until 2011 is typical Bill Ritter-speak.  This is the guy that took credit for Ref C even though it was the former Governor’s budget “solution.”  

    Should anyone be surprised that this governor wants to wait until after he’s re-elected to actually work on a major problem?  It’s his M.O.  “Re-elect me and then I’ll work on stuff…trust me.”  

    If anything, we can all see that this governor is no leader and he cannot be trusted.  

    Chris Romer’s quote at the end of the story is enough to make me wonder how seriously he’s considering a primary challenge to Ritter.  

    • Sage Sam says:

      I’d disagree that Ritter is sitting on his laurels.  While I think that it’s obvious that he’s made more than his share of political missteps, I think that Colorado’s economy is still in good shape relative to most of the nation, at least in part due to his leadership.  I personally feel that his politics are representative of his constituents and he has done an overall good job for Colorado.  If I was a Democrat, I might disagree with that lack of progressive positions though and the constant stepping on of toes.

      Anyway, some of the good news—brought on at least in part—by Ritter.  

      According to a new report by Moody’s, Colorado is among the five states expected to recover first from the recession, projected recovery in the fourth quarter this year. One of the reasons given is Colorado’s strong high-tech industry, a strong focus of Governor Ritter.

      * Colorado is home to one of the largest and fastest growing pieces of America’s clean energy economy, according to a report released today by the Pew Charitable Trusts.  The report found that in Colorado, clean energy jobs grew at a rate of 18.2 percent, while traditional jobs grew by 8.2 percent, outperforming overall job growth in 38 states and the District of Columbia. http://www.pewcenteronthestate

      • DavidThi808 says:

        One of the reasons given is Colorado’s strong high-tech industry, a strong focus of Governor Ritter.

        I think Ritter is doing a good job too but his administration has given local high tech companies absolutely nothing.

        • Sage Sam says:

          I have to disagree somewhat.  He’s hasn’t gone out and made the high tech sector a central tenant to his stump speeches to my knowledge, but just re-establishing the Office of Film and Television, signing the Colorado Broadband Mapping bill,  and signing HB 1035, 1001 and SB 171 this year are good things.  Add in the fact that many of the “Green Energy” jobs will be fairly high tech (at least in my uneducated understanding) and it seems that we are far better off that most states.  How much Gov. Ritter has to do with all of it is of course up to debate.  

      • redstateblues says:

        The report you cite in your 2nd bullet point refers to a study that measured green job growth between 1998 and 2007. The Governor wasn’t inaugurated until 2007.

  3. Ray Springfield says:

    With mandated budgets for Medicaid/Medicare supplements, K-12 education,the Univeristy system and  the Dept of Corrections, very little can be done to fund other programs.

    Further, if tax revenues decrease this year, then  next year will be worse.

    I brought this up 2 years ago to Andrew Ronaoff and Ken Gordon in a town hall meeting. They were of course aware of the problem. The general public, however, has very little idea of the negative consequences of the legislation.

    The Governor is running to the right in an effort to win a second term. The question becomes with his recent anti-labor stance and veto of health care reform if he isn’t governing like a Republican.

    I personally like Governor Ritter and have been acquinted with him for 13 years now.

    His office prosecuted the murderer of one of my relatives to my family’s satisfaction over the objections of the ADA. I therefore still feel peronally bound to support him.

    My concerns, however, grow.

    • Awen says:

      There are no mandates, federal or state, for higher education. It’s been the bank of last resort everytime the state has needed to shore up the budget – witness the 2002-03 and 2003-04 years, when general fund for higher ed was substantially cut and it wasn’t back to the 2001-02 levels until this current fiscal year (if I remember correctly).

      The only problem with cutting higher ed now is that it will jeopardize the state’s share of the state stabilization funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The state cut higher ed general fund by about $150 million but backfilled all of those cuts with ARRA money. The cuts were the MOST they could do without violating ARRA rules – to cut any more than that they would be risking $760 million, some of which goes to K-12.

      It’ll be interesting to watch.

  4. Karate Kid says:

    Government growth would have been higher during the boom years, as lawmakers would almost certainly have spent the extra revenues.  The so-called budget “base” would be much higher.  Things would be worse now, not better, as we’d be faced with a much bigger deficit.

    The bottom line is that the Colorado Supreme Court has apparently gutted just about all of TABOR.  I think it’s one of the most politicized, activist judicial decisions ever and it’s not rooted in the rule of law.  But it is what it is.  Taxes can be increased as long as the revenue does not exceed the TABOR mandated spending caps.

    So TABOR has mitigated today’s problems, not caused them.  Many states, particularly states with big governments, have much bigger problems that Colorado does.  

    • Ralphie says:

      if you want no services whatsoever from government.  No roads, no schools, no colleges, no prisons.

      Services cost money.  It’s about time you wingnuts acknowledged that, but I hold out no hope that you will.  You’ll just say you don’t want “services.”  You just want stuff like “transportation” and mandatory minimum sentences.

      It’s not a game of semantics.  It’s a game of dollars and cents.  You want shit?  You pay for it.  Very simple.

      • Karate Kid says:

        I notice that you ignore the basic point I was making: TABOR is not the genesis of our current budget challenge.

        But to your point, probably the biggest problem is Medicaid, which continues to grow at excessive rates (crowding out other programs) and is shackled from federal reform by rigid federal mandates.  Rein in and reform Medicaid and focus it on the poor — not expand it to the middle class such as has been the trend lately — and we’re in much better shape.

        Colorado state and local spending per capita is about average among the 50 states.  I don’t think we are undertaxed.

        If you think we need to grow government significantly, then we agree to disagree.  But you should be up front with your proposal to get new revenues.  Do you want higher sales taxes, income taxes, or what, Ralphie?

    • Meiner49er says:

      but it assumes that government expenditures are always wasteful and have no impact on economic growth.  The problem with TABOR is the assumption ALL government spending is a net drag on the “free market” economy when, in fact, a dollar spent into the economy is a dollar spent, regardless of who spends it.  IF wealthy corporations can “create jobs” that benefit the people, so too can well-funded governments.

      TABOR has nothing to do with it, really. Compare Colorado to Wyoming, where state government made some smart investment decisions with their revenue surplus, and you will appreciate that the real question is, what sort of lousy investment decisions did Owens and the Republicans make in the last several years prior to 2006?  We are living with the consequences of bad investment policies, and TABOR does nothing to mitigate against that.

      • Karate Kid says:

        I’m not here to defend a political party, but the Republicans haven’t controlled the Colorado legislature since 2004.  And I’m willing to bet you were with Owens on Referendum C.  Kind of weak to just try and blame the problem on Republicans.  

        It’s good to see you differ with Pols and most of the liberals on this site, who blame TABOR for all the world’s problems.

        I’d love to debate whether government spending creates jobs, etc., but that’s quite a different debate.  Let me just say that I believe government spending (particularly all the social welfare spending that is going on now) has a net negative effect on jobs.  The public sector takes money out of the more efficient private sector and the result is a loss of jobs.

  5. MADCO says:

    Only because it’s more important.

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