Yesterday, TBD Colorado released its final report and recommendations. While some are calling this report “The Best Direction”, the report itself is filled with recommendations for “The Bigger Directorate”. The report touches on a few key topics, including education, health, state budget, state workforce, transportation, and the state constitution. In this first post, we’ll cover education, health and state budget.
While the report pays lip service to the need to reduce spending or increasing efficiency, most recommendations call for an increase in spending and/or government overreach. Here are the top-line recommendations offered by the task force by category:
While we applaud efforts to expand opportunity for at-risk children, we have concerns about exploring “how additional revenue could be targeted to improve outcomes for students” and considering “mill levy increases, special districts, and sales and severance taxes”. Past efforts to throw additional funding to schools has not been successful and has resulted in additional bureaucratic bloat.
- Legislation should be considered to expand the number of children in the Colorado Preschool Program so that all families with at-risk children have the option to participate.
- Legislation should be considered to increase the availability of full-day kindergarten for those parents who want it.
- Policymakers and Coloradans should continue a conversation that focuses on how additional revenue could be targeted to improve outcomes for students. (Peak emphasis) A revenue increase should be pursued only if these additional dollars come with complete transparency, accountability and are linked to improved outcomes for students.
- Coloradans must choose how best to finance substantial investments in Colorado’s system of higher education. Options such as mill levy increases, special districts, sales and severance taxes should be considered. (Peak emphasis)
- School districts should consider consolidation to improve efficiency and responsiveness to local students’ needs.
Obesity (childhood and otherwise) is unquestionably an issue plaguing our society, but is the government’s role to act as waist watcher? The programs listed in the health category on their face sound like a good idea. But, when taxpayers become responsible for funding these programs, we have concerns.
- Legislation should be considered to support the expansion of home and community-based services to increase patient satisfaction, create value, and save money for the elderly and people with disabilities.
- Legislation should be considered to support additional utilization of managed care approaches in Medicaid to better coordinate care and control costs.
- Opportunities for youth physical activity should be encouraged, including physical education in schools, extracurricular and after-school activities, community programs, and outdoor recreation. Providing opportunities for physical activity is a shared responsibility with families. (Peak emphasis)
- Access to healthy foods should be expanded, including meals served in schools, vending machines, neighborhood grocery stores, public food programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and community gardening opportunities. Providing access to healthy foods is a shared responsibility with families. (Peak emphasis)
Nearly everyone agrees that perhaps we need to reform the state budget due to shortfalls, but Colorado doesn’t have a revenue issue. We have a spending issue, which is largely ignored in the state budget recommendations. The recommendation to increase taxes for education and transportation is particularly concerning since the financing in these two areas has been so poorly managed in the past. Finally, the worst recommendation is the last recommendation – to raise taxes on high-growth industries. This recommendation shows an utter lack of understanding of how taxation affects small businesses. Perhaps the reason these businesses are high-growth is because of lower taxes and government regulation?
- The governor and members of the General Assembly should continue working with private organizations that are studying and developing options to address long-term spending and revenue issues, including the projected structural budget shortfall.
- Continue to undertake initiatives to create cost savings and increase efficiency such as combining the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.
- Consider specific, targeted revenue increases for purposes such as those discussed in the recommendations on education and transportation.
- Consider changes to the tax code so that it more accurately reflects Colorado’s underlying economy. Some of the fastest growing sectors of the economy are either exempt or taxed at a lower rate than others. Changes to the tax system that are revenue neutral on a current basis, reduce marginal rate, exemptions and deductions, but simplify the tax code and broaden the tax base should be considered. (Peak emphasis)
- Encourage efficiency among local governments, such as consolidation of administration for local districts, including school, fire and police.
Each of these recommendations sounds like a good idea, but let’s take a moment to ask ourselves if this is the role of government? For some items, perhaps it is. But, many of the recommendations call for an expansion of government and taxes.