The Bell's current fiscal work

“Is there a gap between our resources and our spending, particularly when you factor in our aspirations for opportunity? That’s the problem statement, and we want to set up a statewide discussion about the options for dealing with it.” — Wade Buchanan, Bell Policy Center president

Even with Referendum C in place, many observers say Colorado can’t sufficiently fund state services to compete economically or meet the needs of residents. Many people are concerned about what will happen once the Ref C time-out from TABOR expires in 2010.

Some groups aligned with specific services, such as K-12 education, higher education, health care and transportation, are considering ballot measures to raise revenues or change budget requirements in the post-Ref C era.

The Bell Policy Center is concerned that piecemeal or temporary fixes may do more harm than good by further complicating and constraining Colorado’s budget process. We believe a comprehensive and permanent solution is the best approach to meeting the state’s budget needs.

We also believe the best way to prepare for the post-Ref C world is to first compile a reputable set of data about future fiscal conditions. This will help us to define the problem, educate the public and create common ground for action.

In collaboration with the Colorado Children’s Campaign and the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, a team of eight researchers spent much of 2007 studying the state’s likely spending through FY 2012-2013: the final three years of Ref C and the first three years of the new excess revenue cap set by Ref C. The research is focused on the five areas of state spending that comprise 91 percent of the state budget: K-12 education, higher education, health care, human services, corrections, plus funding for transportation.

The result was Looking Forward, Colorado's fiscal prosopects after Ref C was to provide that information. Looking Forward projected state revenues and expenditures through 2013, a six-year period that includes the last three years of the Referendum C time-out and the first three years of the new Ref C revenue cap.

In 2009, we updated our projections and released a new report, Looking Forward, Colorado's fiscal prospects amid a financial crisis. The new analysis was driven by two major events that developed after our original report.

First, beginning in 2008, Colorado and the nation entered the worst economic downturn in more than 50 years. The new analysis demonstrates clearly that not only were 2007 levels of service as good as it would get, but that 2007 may well become a high point that will stand out more and more starkly as representing the "good old days."

Second, in the 2009 legislative session, lawmakers repealed the 6 percent Arveschoug-Bird General Fund appropriations formula. Our 2007 report had identified this formula as a major factor in how General Fund revenues would be allocated during the study period. Its repeal means that Arveschoug-Bird will not have a significant effect on our projected appropriations during the study period.

Visit the Looking Forward search page. It offers links to versions of the report and links to the appendices that offer agency-by-agency details.

We are also working with a broad range of partners on a public outreach and education campaign with numerous presentations across the state. Our aim is to inform elected officials, opinion leaders and citizens about the challenges uncovered by our research. We are working with many organizations to build a strong and diverse coalition around appropriate and realistic solutions, just as we did leading up to Referendum C.

To request a presentation for your group or in your community, contact:

The Bell Policy Center

(303) 297-0456 in metro Denver • (866) 283-8051 toll-free in Colorado