The second part of a study of the state's budget was released today by University of Denver researchers and its suggestions for the budget include…you guessed it…more taxes. The study found that the state government's growth will not be affordable under current rates of taxation, leaving the budget nearly $3.5 billion short of full funding by 2025. Unsurprisingly, the academics suggest more taxes as the solution, saying cuts in government growth are not really a solution.
State government spending has grown steadily in four out of the last five years. While unemployment in the private sector nearly tripled under former Governor Bill Ritter, from 3.5% to over 9%, between FY06/07 and FY10/11 the number of state employees rose by 10%. State spending rose nearly 20% in the same time period from $16.3 billion to $19.5 billion.
If there is a structural imbalance in the state budget, a good portion of the blame can be laid at the feet of Ritter and the Democrats who controlled the entire budgetary process during virtually the entire time period.
While Coloradans were slimming their family's budget, the Legislature and Governor were doing their best impression of Morgan Spurlock from Super Size Me, recklessly expanding the government's waistline.
Proponents of higher taxes and bigger government point to Colorado's population growth to justify their agenda. While Colorado's population has expanded, the rate of government spending growth under Democrat control has not even been close to commensurate.
Yes, population grew over the last decade, but state spending grew at four times the rate of population growth.
To those who said we can't cut our way out of our budget imbalance, isn't that a bit ironic, considering we spent our way into it?
The most important reaction to this study, and other attempts at pushing government spending even higher through lawsuits like Lobato and Rollie Heath's Prop 103 tax hike, is Governor John Hickenlooper's. While it's the Legislature's responsibility to draft the budget, Hickenlooper looms largest on budgetary decisions. He can set the tone and the direction of the debate with a few phone calls or a single statement.
This past legislative session Hickenlooper proposed significant and real cuts to state spending for the first time in a decade. FY2011/12 represented the first downsizing of government spending seen in a long time.
Hick showed budgetary leadership earlier this year. Why is it that he now hides from it?
As a savvy businessman and smooth political operator, does Governor Hickenlooper believe increasing taxes by $3.5 billion per year is the solution?
On these major questions that affect our state, will he take a side, drive the debate…or is he a man simply content with the accolade of being popular, even if that popularity isn't ever put to any use or any real test?