INTERIM COMMISSION TO STUDY FISCAL STABILITY
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09:48 AM -- Commission Discussion
Senator Heath explained that each commissioner will have the opportunity to address the commission for 5 minutes. A list of 14 themes that emerged during commission discussion was provided to commissioners (Attachment B).
Commissioner Carol Boigon thanked the commission and the chair for the good discussions over the course of the meetings. She shared a Hebrew word for "the prepared table," a concept repeated in many cultures and from many sources. She explained that our stewardship as leaders is to create a society in which we prepare the environment for those who follow us. She compared President Eisenhower's efforts to create a nationwide transportation system as an example of a visionary approach: he envisioned a world not yet built and demonstrated the will to invest in that vision.
Commissioner Amy Oliver Cooke remarked that the budget numbers provided to the commissioners are dizzying. She indicated that she does not believe that providing more money is always the answer. A more important criteria is how that money is spent. She also expressed that spending restrictions based on inflation need to be adjusted to give the legislature flexibility. She suggested creating a K12 opportunity fund similar to the College Opportunity Fund.
Commissioner Renny Fagan remarked that Colorado's future economic prosperity is jeopardized by the lack of investment in higher education. Mr. Fagan made several suggestions regarding the state's long term fiscal stability. First, he challenged the commission to think of prioritizing prevention programs. Second, he encouraged government to continue to identify inefficiencies and to perform better. Third, he suggested improved public-private partnerships. Fourth, he praised the importance of rainy day funds. Mr. Fagan concluded that revenue is insufficient and that funding requirements in the constitution must be addressed by the voters.
Commissioner Marty Neilson commented on her concern with the state's economic situation. She noted that in order to improve this situation, the state should consider spending cuts. She praised TABOR, and shared her disappointment with the Legislature's recent repeal of the 6 percent appropriations limit (Arveschoug/Bird). Ms. Neilson discussed her belief in priority-based budgeting and the need for legislative consensus on the core functions of government.
Commissioner Sean Conway remarked that much of our state budget is on autopilot as a result of federal mandates and constitutional requirements. He expressed regret that the commission could not hear testimony from more citizens. Mr. Conway has confidence that some of these issues will be resolved as the economy improves. Mr. Conway made several recommendations to prepare for the next economic downturn, including a rainy day fund, a comprehensive and comparative tax study, and providing more flexibility to higher education.
Commissioner Kirvin Knox praised the models used by the Judicial Branch to identify efficiencies. Dr. Knox also praised the work of the University of Denver, and the report presented to the commission by Charlie Brown in July. He indicated a need for a comprehensive tax study. He also suggested that the state examine its corrections and sentencing system as a way to improve the state's fiscal situation. He reiterated that now is the time to craft a vision and solve these problems. Finally, he suggested eliminating the Colorado Commission on Higher Education and providing more flexibility to higher education.
Commissioner Tim Hume emphasized the need to focus on measuring outcomes as a way to increase efficiencies, save money, and improve services. He identified higher education as one place to increase investments, and that efficiencies alone will not achieve the desired results. He also remarked that Colorado should remain a low-tax state in order to attract business and remain competitive.
10:58 AM -- Commission Discussion (continued)
Representative Gerou thanked the commission members and staff. She detailed a number of core values of government, including individual responsibility and limited government. She shared her concerns about higher education and capital construction funding. She also reiterated the importance of preparing for the future with a rainy day fund.
Representative Court thanked the commission and staff. She warned against being "penny wise and pound foolish". She asserted that the state must be more preventative in its approach to fiscal stability. She also indicated a need to invest today and prioritize prevention in every area of government.
Senator Brophy thanked the volunteer members of the commission. He asked if the current tax structure is sufficient to fund government adequately? He expressed his belief that funding is sufficient and that the state should prepare for the future with a rainy day fund.
Senator Morse indicated that the commission should not only ask what government costs, but should also ask what benefits does government supply? He remarked that government is a source of justice and fairness and artificially limiting spending also limits the benefits that government can supply.
Representative Ferrandino reiterated the comments of Senator Morse. He noted his belief that state agencies operate with good efficiency and accomplish much with limited resources. He indicated that additional efficiencies could be identified through performance-based budgeting.
Senator Heath described Colorado as a state where there is great wealth and natural resources but has the 47th lowest tax burden. Senator Heath shared his frustrations regarding funding of state programs. He described a bill proposing a comprehensive tax study that he plans to ask the commission to approve and recommend. He also asked the commission to recommend a bill to establish a committee to revise the constitution, and a bill that will provide greater flexibility to the higher education institutions.