Both Colorado and the nation are facing a demographic shift that is historically unprecedented. The senior tsunami began in 2011 when the first of the baby boomers turned 65 and it will be nearing its end sometime after 2050 when the last of the baby boomers turns 85.
Today, Gov. John Hickenlooper delivered his annual State of the State address outlining his agenda for 2015. As usual, there was a lot that we could agree with, including his focus on workforce development, improving K-12 education and keeping post-secondary education affordable. We even agree that Colorado's marijuana industry should have banking privileges rather than having to operate in cash.
The 70th Colorado General Assembly kicked off last Wednesday with an opening day filled with pageantry and excitement. This is the time when the legislative leaders lay out their vision for the coming session. The Bell's vision for the 2015 session has much in common with those described by the leaders.
State economists brought an early Christmas present to state lawmakers, a pair of quarterly revenue estimates showing that Colorado's economy will continue its strong rebound from the Great Recession, which will drive robust growth in state revenues.
Both the governor's economists and those working for the legislature expect revenues will exceed the TABOR limit in FY 2015-16 and FY 2016-17. It was a split decision on whether revenues will exceed the TABOR limit in the current fiscal year.
Over the next 15 years, the number of people 60 or older in Colorado is expected to more than double, boosting the need for long-term care and services that enable older adults to live independently in their homes.
Keeping needy senior citizens in their homes will require an expansion of services like transportation, meals-on-wheels, counseling and nutrition education, according to the Colorado Department of Human Services.
The Bell Policy Center is gearing up for the 2015 legislative session, which begins three weeks from today. As always, we'll be tracking many bills, but more than that, we'll be keeping an eye on the big picture – driving action on issues that expand opportunity for Colorado students, families and businesses. Here are our top five priorities for the session:
Colorado’s 65+ population will increase by 123 percent between 2010 and 2030, according to the Bell Policy Center, who cites its sources as the University of Denver: Financing Colorado’s Future: An Analysis of the Fiscal Sustainability of State Government, April 2011; State Demography Office, Colorado’s Aging Trends, Department of local Affairs March 2012; and Colorado Health Institute: Long-Term Services and Supports in Colorado, November 2011. Meanwhile, senior services for older Coloradans remain sorely underfunded.
The AARP is asking the Colorado legislature to think about old folks when they think about the future. The senior citizens' lobbying group predicts Colorado will see a 123 percent increase in residents older than 65 by 2030, "while services for older Coloradans remain sorely underfunded," it says.
AARP sent its legislative requests to the legislature this week for the session that begins Jan. 7. Atop their wish list is medical care and programs that help keep older residents living independently in their homes.