01 October 2010

Colorado's State Budget In A Nutshell

Colorado's General Fund Budget (2011-2012 fiscal year): $7 billion

Colorado's Anticipated Shortfall in Revenues: $1 billion

Portion of General Fund budget for K-12 that can't be cut per the state constitution: $3.1 billion.

General Fund budget categories for the $3.9 billion of general fund spending from which $1 billion of cuts must be made:

Health care (mostly Medicaid): $1.3 billion*
Higher Education: $0.6 billion
Human Services: $0.6 billion
Corrections: $0.6 billion**
Transporation: $0.0 billion***
Other: $0.8 billion****

* Only modest cuts in Medicaid funding are allowed due to federal mandates associated with the program, and each dollar of cut in local spending reduces the budget gap by only 50 cents due to lost federal matching funds.

** Existing contracts and judicially imposed prison sentences in force limit the degree to which the corrections budget can be reduced in the short term without mass commutation of criminal sentences for felons.

*** There is no transporation funding in the general fund budget. It is financed only through earmarked gas taxes and other transporation related charges.

**** Includes spending for the Departments of Public Safety, Public Health and Environment, Judicial and Revenue. There are constitutional limits on reductions in judicial salaries, and the Judicial Department spending also includes spending for supervision of convicted criminals on probation for sentences already imposed. Reducing spending on the Department of Revenue would probably reduce tax revenues by more than the reducing in spending on the Department.


Due to TABOR, no taxes can be increased for the 2011-2012 tax year, since a vote on tax increases cannot be held in that time frame. The Colorado Supreme Court has held that tax reducing legislative provisions like tax exemptions can be enacted by the legislature consistent with TABOR, however.

Required percentage cut if all categories But K-12 and Health Care are subject to an across the board cut and revenues are not increased: 38%

Likely outcome:

(1) Elimination of all or almost all state funding for higher education in Colorado (where state support for higher education is already lower in Colorado than in any other state in the nation),

(2) deep cut to human services programs for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill,

(3) moderate cuts to Medicaid, and

(4) cuts to rehabilitative programs in state prisons that will increase recidivism in future years.

NOTE: If Ballot Issues 60, 61, and 101 pass, it becomes virtually impossible to balance the budget constitent with the state constitution and federal law. The budget shortfall that must be closed out of the $3.9 billion of non-K-12 programs increases to about $2 billion and revenue increasing opportunities are reduced.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Thank you for the post, this was so helpful in my Glendale Business Examiner articles this week. I am giving every effort to simplify the ballot measures and lay out exactly what it will mean to vote "yes" on each one. I'd love to get your thoughts on how balanced you think they read. The link is www.GlendaleBusinessExaminer.com. I like your perspective, but would love to get your thoughts. Dan