Citizens’ Budget Facts of the Day

Posted by on Mar 07 2011 | Citizens' Budget, PPC

In 1991, predating TABOR, the legislature passed a statute to ensure appropriations for operations would not expend more than 6 percent over the prior year[i]. The legislature recently[ii] removed the restriction. Exempted from the Arveschoug-Bird limitation was the State’s one-time “capital development” funds, used to catch up on deferred maintenance, to fund highway construction, or to erect or remodel state buildings and college facilities.

Restore Arveschoug-Bird, else day-to-day operations can, and likely will, consume all the General Fund revenues. Money for capital outlays has dried up, so building upkeep, remodeling and new construction will continue to be deferred. The new system has already provided incentive to spend any unused funds in whatever fashion will max out the annual appropriation, however inefficacious that expenditure may be.

[i] The limitation also must conform to a growth limit of a change in personal income over 5 percent, but this economic measure of the entire economy will rarely come into play.
[ii] Senate Bill 2009-228 by Senator Morse and Representatives Marostica and Court, “Concerning an Increase in the Flexibility of the General Assembly to Determine the Appropriate Use of State Revenues.”

The Governor’s Energy Office is not connected to any State Department and operates off-budget. The legislature has little say in the flow of dollars into the Office’s programs, nor any say in how the funds are disbursed. Oversight from the legislature, much less the citizenry, hardly exists and is practically impossible. Don’t believe us? Try going online and examining its budget.

The legislature should revisit the need to continue operating this Office as an independent agency. It is an excellent candidate for consolidation, freeing up administrative funds to support other Departments. Consolidation would also improve governance, as programs will once again be brought into the normal budgeting oversight.

Colorado’s Children’s Basic Health Plan (CBHP) enrollment fees are much lower than in some other states. CBHP co-pays are also absurdly low relative to both income eligibility limits and the real cost of medical care. Increases in co-pays have been shown to significantly reduce health service use without any effect on health. Simply adopting the New Hampshire enrollment fee of $25 per child per month would generate more than $18 million a year.

In 2010, the Children’s Basic Health Plan charged $2 to $5 per visit for medical care and prescriptions, $3 to $15 per visit for emergency services, and $5 for most dental services. For comparison, when Medicaid was created Congress set the maximum co-pay at $5. In inflation-adjusted terms, a $5 co-pay in 1965 would be $34.60 in 2010.

We benefit from a reminder that the state constitution strictly prohibits taking on public debt for companies and very explicitly prohibits any appropriation to be made “for charitable, industrial, educational or benevolent purposes to any person, corporation or community not under absolute control of the state….”[i] “Corporate welfare” on its face is a violation of the state constitution.

[i] Article XI, Section 1. “Pledging credit of state, county, city, town or school district forbidden,” and Article XI, Section 2. “No aid to corporations – no joint ownership by state, county, city, town, or school district,” and Article V, Section 34. “Appropriations to private institutions forbidden.”

Taxpayers and consumers want and deserve more mobility. Colorado’s transportation policy has been so politically influenced by special interests that it might be considered outright “anti-transportation” and anti-mobility. The Denver Regional Council of Governments reports for the Denver metro area between 2008 and 2011, of the $1.8 billion state and federal transportation funds for transportation “two-thirds is for transit.”[i]

Buses and light rail combined account for only 2 percent of all miles traveled, yet use 55 percent of the budget.[ii] Within the transit segment, buses do the bulk of the lifting, with rail consuming the bulk of the funding and contributing a fraction of mobility. In cost-effectiveness terms, transit costs taxpayers 60 times[iii] more per unit of benefit than other forms of transportation.

[i] Vincent Carroll, “Don’t Let RTD Go Alone,” Denver Post, March 22, 2009,
[ii] Randal O’Toole, “We Told You So: Transportation Edition, Part 2″ Video clip, min 7:30,
[iii] Cost-Benefit of transit compared to that of other modes is 27.5 divided by 0.45 = 60.

For more information about this topic, go to , leave a message at the Independence Institute at 303-279-6536 or reach Penn Pfiffner directly at or at 303-233-7731.

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