Coloradans’ eyes understandably pass over reports about legislators working on the annual state budget. After all, the “long bill” – so named because it spans nearly 500 pages – is a necessary but mind-numbing legislative drudgery, salted with indiscernible acronyms, and largely incomprehensible to anyone outside the State Capitol.
To most inside the State Capitol, the budget is a Very Big Deal – a $26 billion big deal. That’s nearly $5,000 for every Colorado resident. And that’s not table scraps!
While normal Coloradans go about living their lives, the spending lobby at the State Capitol is paying very close attention to the state budget. Incidentally, “spending lobby” need not be taken as a pejorative; it simply describes those paid to lobby lawmakers on behalf of agencies, organizations and individuals whose programs are funded with our tax dollars.
Consider some illuminating numbers that chart key developments in Colorado over the past eight years:
• State population has grown by 12 percent. Personal income is up 22 percent.
• Enrollment in K-12 public schools has increased by 10 percent, and general fund money spent on those public schools is also up 10 percent.
• The total state budget has grown by 45 percent, and general fund (which consists primarily of state income and sales tax receipts) spending is up 55 percent.
So, why isn’t school funding generally keeping pace with overall budget growth? Here’s the answer:
In those same eight years, spending on Medicaid and the Department of Health Care Policy and Finance is up 148 percent. Enrollment in Medicaid is up 196 percent. (more…)