Colorful Commentary

CFI Statement on White House Budget Proposal

Posted February 15, 2018 by Carol Hedges

 

The following is a statement from CFI Executive Director Carol Hedges on White House budget proposal announced and what it means for Colorado:

“Public investments help build and sustain the thriving communities in which we all want to live. Federal funding is a big part of that as it helps preserve, protect, and empower our communities. Where our kids go to school, how we get to and from work, where the next generation of workers are trained and educated, what job prospects we have to earn a good life, and how we access and enjoy parks and public lands are all part of the Colorado way of life and those priorities all rely on federal support.

The president’s budget proposal released this week would erode that Colorado way of life by cutting the very investments that help make it possible.

If this federal budget proposal were actually enacted, it would threaten schools, student aid, and other critical needs. It would take away health care from seniors and people with disabilities. It would make housing and food less affordable for working families trying to make ends meet. And it would make it harder for people to succeed and earn a good living.

Just looking at housing alone, initial estimates show that Colorado would lose more than $20 million in public housing funding, $13 million in HOME funding, and more than $34 million in Community Development Block Grant funding.

Meanwhile, as the legislature debates transportation funding, the president’s infrastructure plan would shift billions of dollars in costs to the state and local governments. One initial estimate shows that Colorado could lose up to $1.9 billion in federal transportation funding over an eight year span under this plan.

The president’s budget proposal would make the tough choices in Colorado’s state legislature that much more difficult. However, despite the president’s misguided budget proposal, it fundamentally does not change the basic fiscal equation facing state leaders: they can either cut or eliminate vital public services and supports that we all depend on, they can find other areas to cut such as schools or transportation, or they can increase revenue to make vital public investments and support Colorado’s way of life.

Colorado is a great place to call home because of the public investments we’ve made in our state, our communities, and for our families. This budget plan would undo that work and make it harder for every Coloradan to succeed.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Scott Downes at downes@coloradofiscal.org 

TABOR at 25, Part II: A Limit on Colorado’s Way of Life

Posted January 29, 2018 by Carol Hedges

by Carol Hedges, Executive Director

Coloradans are fond of touting our way of life as unique, and with good reason. We are home to a beautiful landscape, a rich heritage, a growing economy, and a distinctive Western spirit.

Whether you’re a fifth-generation Coloradan or a new resident, a rancher on the Eastern Plains or a resort worker living the dream in a mountain town, a retiree on the Western Slope or a recent graduate working at a startup, you are here because you – and because the generations before you – wanted a better life.

That’s embedded in our DNA. It’s core to who we are and what we are as a state.

For centuries, people have made Colorado their home to pursue a way of life they can call their own. For some, that’s rooted in agriculture, farming, or ranching. For others, it’s the draw of the mountains and a spirit of adventure. For many, it’s a sense of both solitude and community in frontier towns. And for others, it’s the opportunity and entrepreneurship found in Front Range cities and beyond.

The Colorado way of life encompasses so much and so many distinct variations. It’s often reduced to having a ski pass and a Subaru, but being a Coloradan is so much more than that. When you travel around this vast state and meet people in all its wonderful communities, you realize that being a Coloradan is about loving where you live and living how you want.

But one of our unique characteristics as a state is making that more and more difficult. And that culprit is TABOR, which increasingly stands in the way of Coloradans being able to live how they want and earn a good life.

In our first post about the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), we noted that understanding the last two and half decades of fiscal policy in Colorado is not nearly as critical as looking ahead to figure out what kind of fiscal policy we want and need for the next 25 years.

And what’s increasingly clear is that our current fiscal constraints are woefully ill-equipped to support the many ways of life that we want to see thrive across Colorado communities.

Despite our recent economic growth, we are seeing more and more fissures emerge in our schools, our health care, our roads and infrastructure, and all the other ways that we’re falling short on the public investments needed to help our communities thrive well into the future.

And those fissures are made more difficult because TABOR and other constraints hinder our ability to invest in and support the different ways of life we are home to. It hamstrings policymakers. It subscribes local communities to government by formula. And it strips away our collective ability to support what makes Colorado communities great.

We’re at serious risk of letting our fiscal policy deepen an already growing economic divide between urban and rural communities.

As a state, we’re seeing near record lows in unemployment. But at the same time, wages have stagnated, cost of living – especially housing – is skyrocketing, and the poverty rate in some rural counties is more than four times what it is in affluent suburban counties.

TABOR and other constraints shackle how and how much can be invested in our state, while our state continues to change and evolve in ways that were not envisioned 25 years ago.

The policy demands of a county where there are 89 houses per square mile are much different than in a county where there are 4 houses per square mile – which is what the difference between urban and rural counties looks like from a density standpoint.

The needs of a community where 30% of the population is over 65 years old – as is the case in Hinsdale County – are going to be different than where it’s only 10% – as is the case in Denver.

Our state’s aging population can hamper wage growth, as older, higher-paid employees leave the workforce and are succeeded by younger, lower-wage workers. Colorado’s homestead property tax exemption alone, a property tax break to seniors, is growing 8.5% from last fiscal year to the next. Meanwhile, health care and human services costs continue to rise and claim more of the state’s General Fund revenue.

All the talk of attracting the new Amazon headquarters or potentially putting in a bid for the 2026 Olympics is fascinating since TABOR and other fiscal constraints have prevented us from funding infrastructure that keeps up with our current growth as it is.

In the last 25 years, Colorado’s population has increased by 64 percent (more than 2 million additional people). The vehicle miles traveled have increased by 82 percent. Annual congestion time in the urban metro areas has increased by 283 percent. Meanwhile, CDOT’s budget has only gone up by 31 percent and the state gas tax has remained flat at 22 cents per gallon. Since 1991.

What does any of this have to do with TABOR? And how does it harm Colorado’s way of life?

Every big policy question that Colorado faces depends to some degree on TABOR and other fiscal constraints – on schools, health care, housing, higher education, parks and public lands, job and economic growth, roads and infrastructure, and many other issues. And in many if not most cases, those questions come down to choosing between essential priorities that keep Colorado awesome.

The same cycle repeats itself, in good economic times and bad, where elected officials tell us we have to choose between vital priorities. Or even worse, they tell us simply that we can’t do something that we should, because of a formula or a constitutional constraint. Or because they don’t want to go to the ballot. Or because they don’t think it will pass.

Coloradans don’t want to hear that we can’t. We know that it doesn’t have to be this way if we don’t want it to be. We know that we shouldn’t have to constantly decide between urban and rural priorities, between funding schools and roads, or between improving health care and higher education. We know that as another 2 million people are anticipated to move here over the next two decades that we have to do it differently.

What makes Colorado so awesome and so special is that we are perfectly capable of respecting and supporting different ways of life in our state. But TABOR hinders and harms our capacity to do just that.

The solution is not to throw more money at every problem, but rather to rethink – with fresh eyes and new ideas – what fiscal policy makes sense to guide us going forward and consider whether TABOR should be a part of that for the next 25 years.

The role of good government isn’t to tell us how to live, but rather to help and support the communities that we want to live in. And we have to ask ourselves if TABOR does that: Does it support a government that works for all people and creates more opportunities to earn a good life

For the past 25 years, Colorado has held a unique position as the only state that restricts itself to governing by the TABOR formula. We’ve succeeded in many ways in spite of that, and been set back in many others. But we have a truly unique opportunity to reckon with whether this is the right policy to support our way of life for the next 25 years and beyond.

The 2018 Purple Book is Available for Purchase!

Posted January 15, 2018 by Caitlin Schneider

 

As we head into 2018, we’re excited to celebrate both the 5th anniversary of the Colorado Fiscal Institute and the release of the 3rd edition of The Purple Book: A Colorado Compendium of Useful Fiscal Facts.

What started out as a simple layman’s guide to help demystify Colorado’s tax and budget policy is now an indispensable resource for legislators, local leaders, community advocates, and anyone who wants to better understand the facts and figures that shape our state’s fiscal landscape.

In addition to the core components that made prior editions so popular, CFI is excited to add several new sections on the federal budget, local fiscal policy, corrections, human services, housing, sin taxes, Gallagher Amendment, and the homestead exemption.

Click here to grab your copy of the 2018 edition of the Purple Book today! 

A Note on the Federal Tax Bill

Posted December 21, 2017 by Carol Hedges

 

With the passage of the federal tax plan, it is a very sad and disappointing day for an old tax nerd like me. By now, we all know that the bill will provide huge tax cuts for corporations and America’s wealthiest people. Many of us also know that while the bill was touted as tax reform, it is really just a tax grab for the folks who are in the best position to manipulate political power to their own advantage.

What saddens me is that this tax bill will unnecessarily cause people economic harm that is otherwise avoidable. With this bill, we lose important tools to address the personal economic devastation that occurs during downturns. By cutting taxes and increasing the deficit when the economy is strong, we have taken away the federal government’s ability to help states and families manage the next recession. And it is all so that the really rich and the really influential can keep even more of the wealth that working people help produce.

What disappoints me most is that during a time when the country is faced with rapidly crumbling infrastructure, unprecedented technological changes, and an expanding economy, Congress chose a flawed economic theory as our guide rather than a proven public investment approach as the path to prosperity. This trickle-down theory was wrong in the 1980s and followed by economic hardship for working people. It was wrong again in the early 2000s and followed by the Great Recession. Yet here we are once again.

Because of the unique nature of the Colorado tax code, our general fund stands to gain revenue from the passage of the federal bill. But, do not be misled, the new state revenue is not sufficient to fill the gaps left by reduced federal support. Let’s hope that our Legislature chooses the proven path to widespread prosperity and makes strategic investments in Coloradans with the new resources.

During this tax debate, Senator Gardner said we need to stop dealing with an “Atari-era tax code that is outdated and overly complicated.” He’s right. And while we disagree with his conclusions for what that means in this bill, CFI will hold him other leaders accountable to that statement as we work with thousands of Coloradans to modernize our state’s constitutionalized tax code and change TABOR’s role in our economic future.

Pathways to Prosperity Blog Series: How Education and Job Training Boost Productivity

Posted December 20, 2017 by Esther Turcios

 

The Colorado Fiscal Institute recently defined shared” prosperity to mean that everyone has the opportunity to become economically successful and that as Colorado continues to grow, all people are equitably reaping the benefits of economic expansion. However, this can only be achieved when we break the barriers that prevent our communities, particularly communities of color, from achieving economic success. One way to promote both economic efficiency and strong economic growth is by investing in education and job training.

K-12 education

Access to a quality K-12 education is beneficial for students, parents, and their communities. When we invest in our schools, particularly those in low-income neighborhoods, we’re investing in smaller class sizes, after school programs, the arts and more school materials for each student. These investments can mean more opportunities for students to get better paying jobs and to give back to their communities, helping others thrive.

A study by Northwestern University and University of California, Berkeley investigated the long-term effects of increased funding on students who attended high-poverty schools between 1955-1985, before they began their K-12 education. According to the findings, schools that received a 10 percent increase in per-pupil funding were associated with better economic outcomes for their students. This translated into 10 percent higher individual earnings and 17 percent higher incomes throughout students’ lives. Furthermore, the study found that the increase in school funding was linked to a 4 percent increase in base teacher salaries, an increase in 1.4 more school days per year and a 6 percent decrease in teacher-student ratios, all things proven to help children succeed.

A quality education isn’t only beneficial for students and families. Countless research and studies show a strong correlation between quality education and a state’s economic growth. For example, a 2013 report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), found that a well-educated workforce, in particular workers with a college degree or more, is key to a state’s increase in productivity. Evidence from the report shows that between 1979-2012, states that saw an increase in the number of adults with at least a college degree had a cumulative growth in productivity. During this same time period, states that had an increase in productivity saw an increase in worker compensation. EPI found that overall a well-educated workforce is what actually drives a state’s economy and attracts high-wage employers, not tax cuts for businesses as trickle down theories incorrectly suggest. This report strengthens the argument that public investments, notably those in education, are the driving force behind sustained economic growth for communities and states.

These and countless other studies show that by properly funding schools, especially high-poverty schools, we are investing in our students, families, teachers and the entire surrounding community. Unfortunately, today Colorado ranks among the lowest, 39th among all states, in terms of per pupil spending in K-12 education. The local share of K-12 funding has fallen significantly since the 1980s, and the state now spends nearly $2,147 less per pupil than the national average. Largely as a result of our unique constitutional restraints, funding for K-12 and higher education continues to lag in Colorado and our students and the economy are paying the price.

Source: Public Education Finances 2013 from U.S. Census Bureau Published 2015

 

Higher education

The benefits of a quality K-12 education are compounded by access to a higher education.  In 2016, the median household income for a Colorado high school graduate was $31,515 while the median income for a graduate with a bachelor’s degree was $51,136. In other words, for every dollar a college graduate earned, a high school graduate only earned 62 cents.

To clarify further, people with two and four-year college or graduate degrees earn substantially more than people with a high school degree, further enhancing people’s economic mobility. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, students who grow up in the poorest 20 percent of households and who have access to a college education are 2.5 times more likely to have an income that places them in the top 60 percent of earners later on in life. This is especially important for Black and Latino students who have made significant strides in higher education but continue to fall behind their White counterparts in enrollment and completion of a higher education degree.

Further, attainment of a higher education degree is linked to different rates of unemployment. As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates for people without a high school diploma (7.7%) are much higher than for individuals with only a high school diploma (5.3%), and are drastically higher than for those who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher (2.5%).

However, similarly to K-12 education, higher education funding in the state has also seen large cuts throughout the years, particularly during the Great Recession. Today, Colorado ranks 48th when it comes to state support per each full-time college student.

 

Job training programs

Job training programs are another important public investment which increase productivity and make a state’s workforce more enticing for businesses. These programs are a vital resource for workers who weren’t able to receive higher education but want to get certified in a specific field. According to the Center for American Progress, workers who receive training tailored for a specific skill or job earn more than $300,000 more in wages in a lifetime. Examples of jobs that require skills training include licensed practical nurses, carpenters, plumbers, and biomedical equipment technicians to name a few. Cost-effective investments in job training can provide workers the opportunities to secure a job in any of these in demand professions as reported by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP). This is especially true for workers who do not have a post secondary education. CCLP’s “State of Working Colorado Report,” found that in 2016 about 13 percent of the labor force had a high diploma while another 7.2 percent had less than a high school education.

Many states, including California, Iowa, Kentucky, Connecticut and others have already created and invested in job training programs to support workers. For example, these states and many others have turned to apprenticeships as a way to address the gap in job specific skills. Iowa for instance, established the Apprenticeship and Training Act in 2014 which appropriated $3 million annually to the apprenticeship program training fund. These funds support grants to apprenticeship program sponsors to help cover the costs of classroom supplies, job equipment, and new locations for training. As Colorado’s economy continues to grow and wages continue to stagnate, it is important to look at innovative ideas from neighboring states who are creating programs to address the needs of the workforce and the growing racial wealth divide.

Access to quality education, whether it is K-12, higher education, or job training programs, is associated with higher wages, higher employment and lower dependence on public benefits. It allows students the opportunity to have more economic mobility and contribute more to Colorado’s economy. Therefore, investments in schools and job training are crucial to our state’s economic growth. If we don’t address the barriers to funding and accessing schools, people can’t invest in their education, which is one of the most important factors in increasing productivity and creating wide shared economic prosperity.

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Tune into our next blog “Investments in Infrastructure Bring High Returns” where we will discuss in greater detail how investments in infrastructure increase productivity and shared prosperity.  

Forecast Five: December 2017 Revenue Estimates

Posted December 20, 2017 by Chris Stiffler

1. Federal Tax Changes Mean More State Tax Revenue for Colorado

The federal tax bill has far-reaching implications for Coloradans. The bill (known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) was just passed by the house and senate and will likely be signed into law before Christmas. At the federal level and for nearly every state, the TCJA means less tax revenue. But Colorado can expect to see an increase in revenue: the JBC forecasts $35.2 million more in the General Fund reserve by June 2018 under the TCJA, and an additional $196.5 million for the FY2018-19 budget. 

Why? Unlike most states, Colorado uses Federal Taxable Income to calculate its tax base. By eliminating many deductions, the TCJA broadens the federal tax base for individuals and corporations. The bill then lowers federal tax rates, resulting in cuts in federal taxes. In Colorado, however, the tax base (Federal Taxable Income) broadens but the state tax rate remains the same—so more state revenue. 

Though this means Colorado can expect a bump in state tax revenue, the dramatic effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will still put pressure on our state budget. The tax bill costs a lot of money ($1.5 trillion, by most estimates), and decreases federal revenue significantly. Republican members of congress have promised cuts to federal spending in 2018, which means less federal money for Colorado. That makes the pie smaller for all Coloradans, and will require the state to make up the difference (for reference, more than 1/3 of Colorado’s budget comes from the federal government). 

2. Why Do Front Range Home Values Hurt Local Government Budgets in Rural Colorado?

The Gallagher Amendment prevents the share of housing property taxes to increase relative to non-residential property (for more on how Gallagher works, watch our handy Gallagher video here!). Because housing value is expected to increase relative to other property, the Residential Assessment Rate (RAR) is projected to fall from 7.2 percent to 6.11 percent in 2019.  That 15 percent drop in the statewide RAR will be particularly damaging to local government budgets, especially in regions that haven’t seen growth in housing value like the Front Range has.  Legislative Council projects that 18 counties in Colorado will actually have less property value to tax in 2019. The automatic cut to housing property taxes will also put more strain on the General Fund to provide a greater share of school funding.

3. Colorado’s Economy in 2018: Slowing Our Roll

Tax collections jumped by 7.8 percent in 2017 but that type of year-over-year growth isn’t set to continue in 2018 because of the aging population, housing costs, and a tight labor market.   In particular, the state’s growing aging population constrains economic expansion. (For context: the share of Coloradans age 65 and older is expected to increase 115% by 2050, according to state demographers.) 

Historically low unemployment rates in our state can also mean less job growth. A robust job market means employers have trouble attracting workers if they don’t raise wages, which increases the cost of doing business and can slow growth. The high cost of housing is dampening consumer spending as more and more of our paychecks pay for the cost of living. Sky-rocketing housing prices are also leading to a slowing of people moving to Colorado; in fact the projected-rate of population growth was reduced from 1.6 percent to 1.4 percent because of a slow down in net migration. 

Despite these constraints, Colorado’s economy is strong. Using our current economic strength to invest in the future is fiscally responsible and makes Colorado more resilient. Providing crucial supports like affordable housing and healthcare to all Coloradans helps to stabilize and sustain growth. 

4. Good News or Bad News for School Budgets? Hard to Tell

Schools are funded both by state revenue and local tax revenue.  Because local property taxes came in higher than what was anticipated when the FY 2017-18 budget was written, the state requirement to fund schools dropped by $110 million. Schools could benefit from the extra $110 million if the state keeps its funding constant, but it is not obligated to do so. State aid to schools could be cut by $110 million to free up revenue for other parts of the state budget.  The automatic property tax cut on homes prompted by the Gallagher Amendment will  also adversely impact school budgets in the next several years. Gallagher’s side effects will put a greater burden on the state General Fund to pay for schools as local tax contributions for schools continue to fall.

5. More State Revenue for the FY2018-19 Budget

There are no TABOR rebate obligations projected for the forecast period.

The General Fund is expected to end the FY2017-18 with a 6.8 percent reserve (which is $35 million above the required amount).  The General Assembly will have $963 million more to spend for the upcoming year than what was budget for in FY2017-18.  That isn’t all new money however, keeping up with inflation and pupil growth requires the state to pay $240 more next year just to maintain the same school funding levels.

Pathways to Prosperity Blog Series:  The Importance of Productivity, Wages and Shared Prosperity

Posted November 15, 2017 by Esther Turcios

By Esther Turciosprosperity

At the Colorado Fiscal Institute, we advocate for fiscal and economic policies that promote equity and widespread prosperity in Colorado. It is public investment, funded by sound fiscal policies, that supports economic well-being and thriving communities.

But what do we mean by “widespread prosperity?” Widespread or “shared” prosperity means that everyone has the opportunity to become economically successful. It also means that as Colorado continues to grow, all people are equitably reaping the benefits of economic expansion. Simply put, it means people in every community across the state have access to opportunities to learn, work, and earn a good living to support themselves and their families. When everyone can participate in the economy in a meaningful way, we are all better off.

Unfortunately, in Colorado, like most states, prosperity is not shared in an equitable way across all communities.  Whether it is gaps in income between genders or races, disparity in wages and productivity, or differing achievement levels in education, the divide between those on top and those on the bottom is increasing all the time.

A Lack of Equity in Sharing the Benefits of Increased Productivity 

The unfortunate reality is that even with our recent, rapid economic growth, Colorado is lagging behind in spreading prosperity among all communities.  This is particularly true with how the gains from productivity are shared between employees and corporate shareholders.

Jobs that pay too little for people to get by are growing as a share of Colorado’s economy and the wages those jobs pay are shrinking. That’s not only bad for people in those jobs, it’s detrimental to the economy as a whole.

According to an analysis by CFI, the portion of total jobs that are “low-wage” has been on an upward trend since 2010. This means more Colorado workers are in low-wage jobs. Low-wage jobs are those paying less than what a full-time worker would need to live above the federal poverty line for a family of four. That annual threshold was $24,300 in 2016, which translated to an hourly wage of about $12.48 an hour.  More than 600,000 Coloradans — 25.2 percent of workers — have jobs classified as low-wage by this definition.

We know that a main pathway to shared prosperity is increasing the wages of workers. But despite increasing productivity, worker wages have been stagnant over the past 40 years. According to a report by author and economist Peter Fischer, the stagnation of real wages has left many workers behind. Fischer finds that real wages did not grow at all from 2008 to 2014, and were just 4 percent higher than they were in 1972. Yet, over that same time period, the productivity of American workers nearly doubled. If the minimum wage had grown with productivity, it would be more than double what it is now.

In a functional economy, there is a strong link between greater productivity and higher wages. An increase in productivity and new income generated from said increase should be returned to employees in the form of higher wages. However, this is not what has been occurring and shared prosperity is suffering because of it.

A Lack of Prosperity and the Racial Wealth Divide 

CFI is also seeing a widening gap in wealth between different races in Colorado. Wealthy, white individuals and families are becoming richer while low and moderate-income individuals and families, particularly communities of color, are falling further behind.

In 2016, it was reported that the 400 richest Americans own more wealth than the entire Black population and one- third of the Latino population combined, for a total net worth of $2.34 trillion. This translates to an average household divide of $500,000 between Black and Latino households compared to White households. This divide can be directly attributed to historical policies and practices, such as housing and lending discrimination, that have created barriers for these communities to achieve economic success and widespread prosperity.

We also see this growing racial wealth divide manifesting in Colorado. According to a report from the Colorado Trust, today, 22.9 percent of American Indians have incomes below the federal poverty line, compared to 21.1 percent of Latinos, 20.2 percent of African Americans, and 15.6 percent of Asians. In comparison, only 8.9 percent of White households have incomes below the federal poverty line.

Next Steps 

There are choices we can make and active roles we can take in shaping our public policy to better address this lack of shared prosperity. Public investments in our communities can increase productivity and equitable fiscal policies can result in more broadly shared economic benefit. Colorado must invest in policies that focus on the education and skills of workers, top-notch infrastructure, a healthy workforce, and entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s time we talk about investing our state and local dollars into essential programs that we interact with every day, like our schools and our transportation systems, so we can create more opportunities for all communities to prosper.

Additionally, an equitable tax code plays a crucial role in creating widespread prosperity for communities. This is especially important when addressing economic security for communities of color.  Colorado’s flat income tax system sounds equitable because everyone pays the same rate, but it fails to consider that low and middle-income earners spend a much greater share of their income on things that are taxed through sales taxes. When we look at all state and local taxes, we find that the poorest Coloradans pay 8.4 percent of their income in taxes while the wealthiest Coloradans only pay 4.6 percent in taxes.

It’s time for us as a state to start deconstructing the actual barriers that prevent our communities, particularly communities of color, from achieving economic success. Our priorities should focus on promoting productivity, higher wages, and shared prosperity by breaking down barriers to quality public investments and addressing inequitable tax structures.

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Tune into our next blog “How Education & Job Training Boost Productivity”  where we will discuss in greater detail how investments in education and job training increase shared prosperity.

Get Your Tickets to Fiscal Forum 2018 Now!

Posted November 10, 2017 by Caitlin Schneider

TCF

2018 Fiscal Forum
Friday, January 12, 2018

CFI is excited to announce that our keynote speaker for the 2018 Fiscal Forum is noted author, political analyst and historian, Thomas Frank. Frank is the author of numerous books, including “Listen Liberal” and “What’s the Matter with Kansas.” A former columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Harper’s, Frank is the founder of The Baffler magazine and today writes for The Guardian.

We’ll also have economists from Colorado Legislative Council Staff and the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting to give us the lowdown on the state budget and local economy, as well as national experts from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to explain what’s happening in Washington D.C. and how it will affect Colorado.

You won’t want to miss this year’s Fiscal Forum. Get your tickets today!

Fiscal Forum
Friday, January 12, 2018
8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
History Colorado Center
1200 Broadway
Denver, CO 80203

You won’t want to miss this event, RSVP today!

How the House Tax Proposal Would Affect Colorado Residents’ Federal Taxes

Posted November 7, 2017 by Carol Hedges

rsz_captureOn Thursday November 2nd the House Ways and Means Committee introduced the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in the House of Representatives. It contained the same major flaws as prior GOP tax plans and frameworks. The House GOP tax plan prioritizes tax cuts for the wealthiest households and profitable corporations, it would dramatically increase the deficit, which would likely force future budget cuts to programs like Medicaid, Medicare and safety net programs, and it offers no benefits to most low-income working families: instead, it hurts many.

This plan would be detrimental to our nation as a whole and to communities across the states, including Colorado communities. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), recently released state specific data that looks at the impacts of this plan on Coloradans. The data includes:

  • The share of tax cuts in Colorado going to each income group in 2018 and 2027.
  • The average tax cut for each income group in those years, in dollar amounts.
  • The average tax cut for each income group in those years as a share of income.
  • The fraction of taxpayers in Colorado who would pay higher taxes under the bill.

Additionally, ITEP released a full report which found that the richest Americans benefit most from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Click here to read about Colorado specific data.

Click here to read the full report. 

 

 

 

TABOR at 25: An Outdated Artifact for Tomorrow’s Economy

Posted November 3, 2017 by Carol Hedges

by Carol Hedges, Executive Director

Twenty-five years ago today, Colorado voters approved adding Article X Section 20 to the state constitution, known to us as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).  That same year, Motorola introduced one of the first handheld digital mobile phones. 

Motorola International 3200At the time, the phone was an important – and innovative – step for mobile technology. But it was bulky, heavy, and shaped like a brick. It couldn’t send or receive text messages. There was no internet and you couldn’t get directions from Google Maps. Charging the battery took five hours, and it only lasted for an hour or so of talk time.

If you got your hands on one today, that same phone would still work on certain networks. But faced with an option of that over one of today’s smartphones, with all its capabilities built for modern life, what would you choose? What would you want to rely on to communicate and connect with the world today and into the years ahead?

Colorado is facing a similar predicament when it comes to TABOR – an outdated idea that’s outlasted its questionable usefulness. Twenty-five years after its passage. TABOR remains a dominant influence in Colorado’s fiscal landscape. But is it really the governing policy that we want to move forward with into the next twenty-five years?

Over the last two and a half decades, we’ve talked a lot about TABOR – how it severely limits Colorado’s ability to invest in ourselves or benefit from economic growth, how it’s made our economy easier to bust when recessions hit and harder to boom when they end, and how it provides an easy avenue for elected officials to abdicate their responsibility to make decisions about investing in schools, roads, health care, and jobs.

Many who live in Colorado today – which is nearly 2 million more than in 1992 – may not be familiar with all the ramifications of the controversial constitutional amendment that barely passed on its third trip to the ballot. But understanding the last 25 years of fiscal policy in Colorado is not nearly as important as looking ahead to the next 25 and figuring out what kind of state we want and how we’re going to support that endeavor.

As we look ahead and try to sort out how to best keep Colorado awesome, we need to have honest debates about changing technology, an evolving economy and dramatic growth if we are to develop better systems and structures that can help our state and everyone in it thrive in the decades to come.

The Colorado of the future needs fiscal policy that actually supports our way of life in Colorado, by making sure we don’t keep kicking costs for things like infrastructure down the road, by making sure we’re actually paying for ourselves as we see waves of new population growth, and by making sure we can shift and adapt in smart ways as the economy evolves.

Between now and 2040, another 2 million people are estimated to move to our state. That’s a staggering number to think about when we’re not even keeping up with the demands of our growth now. How can we realistically expect to do so going forward, without some significant changes?

Over the coming weeks, CFI will be publishing a series of blog posts that explore details on how TABOR constrains our ability to adapt to economic and cultural changes that threaten our future.

The 25th anniversary of the passage of TABOR is not a cause for celebration, it is a call for a smarter, better way forward in the next 25 years.

We better make sure we have a phone that works.

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