Plain talk on Colorado's Budget: Colorado, meet your General Fund
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It's the first week of July, which means it's the first week of the new state fiscal year. Do you know where your General Fund is?
General Fund is the state's main checking account. But it's not like your family checkbook. In actual dollars, the vast majority of General Fund goes to support four key functions of government:
1. Educating Coloradans (K-12 and higher education)
2. Helping low-income and disabled Coloradans with
health care (mostly Medicaid)
3. Running our courts and prison systems
4. Providing a safety net for low-income and vulnerable populations
General Fund pays for many other activities and services, but 96 cents of every dollar goes to these four areas. They drive state spending, and so when we talk about cutting the budget, we are necessarily talking about cutting some or all of these services.
Here's the Big Picture: At $7.01 billion, General Fund is the largest part of the state budget, and it's the part we all fund through our general taxes. It's equal to 3.3 percent of total state personal income and 2.7 percent of total state gross domestic product.
Almost two-thirds of General Fund comes from income taxes paid by individuals. A third comes from sales and use taxes. And a small amount comes from income taxes paid by corporations doing business in Colorado.
Our income tax rate is a flat 4.63 percent of taxable income. Our state sales tax is 2.9 percent. Coloradans pay some of the lowest taxes in the country.
General Fund helps support the operations of most state departments. But in those four biggest areas, this year General Fund will pay:
- Nearly two-thirds of the cost of educating 800,000 kids in more than 1,700 public schools (the rest will come from local property taxes)
- More than a quarter of the cost of educating the equivalent of 156,000 full-time students at 24 community colleges, state colleges and public universities (most of the rest will come from tuition)
- A third of the cost of health care for 900,000 Coloradans, including more than 400,000 low-income children (the rest will come from hospital and patient fees and federal funds)
- Almost 90 percent of the cost of incarcerating 22,000 adult prisoners and monitoring 9,000 parolees
- More than two-thirds of the cost of 750,000 new court cases (with public defenders and other assistance in at least 100,000 of these cases) and monitoring 75,000 adults and juveniles on parole
- Almost 40 percent of the cost of safety-net programs that:
* Respond to at least 76,000 reports of child abuse or neglect
*Support more than 12,000 children in foster care and more than 10,000 adoptive families
*Support services for more than 13,000 Coloradans with mental illnesses and more than 4,000 adults with developmental disabilities
*House more than 1,200 young Coloradans in youth correctional facilities
*Provide temporary assistance to at least 15,000 families (TANF, or what we used to call "welfare")
*Subsidize child care for nearly 20,000 low-income children
*Provide pension support for more than 22,000 low-income seniors
*Provide aid to nearly 7,000 disabled individuals
Join the conversation. We want to hear your 2 cents' worth.
· Are these the right priorities for state expenditures?
· Do they reflect your vision
of the kind of state
you want Colorado to be?
· Should General Fund
stop doing any of this?
· Is there something else General Fund should be doing?
Email us at PlainTalk@bellpolicy.org to let us know how you'd answer these questions.