(March 18) – The state’s leading economists told the legislative Joint Budget Committee today that Colorado’s economic rebound was continuing, though JBC members cautioned that Colorado isn’t out of the hole dug by the Great Recession just yet.

Henry Sobanet, director of the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting, noted that the state unemployment rate had fallen to 7.3 percent. OSPB chief economist Jason Schrock said Colorado was generating new jobs at the fourth-fastest rate in the nation.

Natalie Mullis, the legislature’s chief economist, estimated that the state would have a general fund surplus of $848 million this fiscal year, which ends June 30. That’s an increase of $63 million from December’s quarterly estimate. Sobanet reckoned the quarterly increase at $227 million.

By law, the majority of surplus revenue in the 2012-13 fiscal year will be appropriated to K-12 and higher education.

“We still have to be cautious in our budgeting process,” said Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder), the vice chair of the JBC, which will base the 2013-14 state budget on the projections it received today. “But with every good-news revenue estimate we are able to fill in more of the need for K-12 funding and safety-net services that we were unable to deliver to the people of Colorado during the Great Recession.”

“I hope we can use some of this money for training programs that will give the unemployed the tools to succeed, and on other economic development initiatives that will speed our recovery even further,” said Rep. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver), who also sits on the JBC.

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