It’s been just over six years since the banking crash and resulting recession began. Though many of us are still hurting from lack of good paying jobs, the overall economy is strengthening. As the House works on the “long bill” this week—the annual general appropriations bill—I thought I’d share some information with you on the state of our economy and the budget we are considering.
There are two economic forecasts provided to members of the General Assembly. The first comes from the economists that work for the Legislative Council. The second comes from the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting. These forecasts are the foundation for the budget request from the executive office of the Governor and the appropriations bill prepared by the Joint Budget Committee.
Colorado’s economic forecast suggests a healthy expansion of the economy in coming years. We are just weeks into the first term of new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, and I believe her focus on employment—not just interest rates—will be good for our continued economic recovery. For the 2014 fiscal year, new Federal Reserve policy is encouraging the private sector to begin to gain momentum.
We are fortunate that economic indicators show our state’s economy to be among the best performing economies in the country. This year is particularly unique in our history, because we have begun to collect tax revenues from the sale of recreational marijuana. The Legislative Council predicts we will collect around $55 million in marijuana tax revenue this year alone, $40 million of which will be directed toward our public schools. However, for a state with a budget of over $25 billion, this revenue is negligible, and it is important to realize the true impact of this tax is much smaller than you might think.
We have set three primary goals this session: economic security; providing education funding to invest in the future of our children and state; and delivering recovery for victims of the devastating floods and wildfires that occurred last year.
We have proposed a budget that will not only be balanced, but will also increase the state’s “rainy day fund” to 6.5% of the budget. This fund was essential in our quick response to the natural disasters and we want to make sure it is available for future needs.
After the rejection of Amendment 66 by Colorado voters, we are working to find other solutions to providing our kids the education funding they deserve. We have been able to incorporate nearly $500 million into the budget for both K-12 and higher education. Education is perhaps the most important factor in determining future economic prosperity, and I consider it a primary responsibility of the state to ensure that all kids are afforded the opportunity to receive a top-quality education.
Though my district was not directly affected by the flood and wildfire disasters of last year, Jefferson County was. I am glad to see that we have come together as a state to try to help those who lost friends, family, and property from these devastating natural disasters. Our budget shows the priority we place on helping our neighbors by allocating funds for both disaster recovery and preparedness. Though we can’t eliminate the risk of these kinds of disasters, we can work to mitigate their effects and better prepare for them.
My fellow Lakewood legislators and I will be holding our regular monthly Town Hall on Saturday, April 5th. This time, we will be in the Lakewood Town Council Chambers directly across from the Cultural Center. Senator Andy Kerr will be the emcee, and we will be discussing education financing in more detail. I will also be holding a regular “Coffee with Max” on the second Monday of each month at The French Press on South Union Boulevard from 7:45 to 8:30 a.m.
I hope to see you soon!