The Legislative Counsel of Colorado's General Assembly says that state revenues will be $604 million short of those budgeted. The Governor's office had earlier predicted a mere $77 million shortfall.
Either way, deep cuts are in store for state spending in 2009. Unlike many states, TABOR and related Colorado Constitutional provisions make it almost impossible for the state legislature to increase taxes in any way in short term, so the pain will have to come almost entirely from spending cuts and user's fees. Colorado also has very limited powers to incur debt to pay for current expenses and has no meaningful rainy day fund.
Previous budget battles in recessionary times have shown that much of the state budget is largely untouchable, either because it is outside the state general fund, or because it has protections as a result of the state constitution, federal grant provisions, or the simple impractibility of, for example, prematurely releasing prisoners serving long prison sentences in numbers large enough to make a short term budget dent. Other budget line items, such as those in the Department of Regulatory Agencies or Department of Revenue, either are too small to make a difference or pay for themselves in fines and other revenue generation.
Higher education is the most vulnerable state budget item. General fund transportation expenditures are also very vulnerable.