(Dec. 20) – The state’s leading economists told the legislative Joint Budget Committee today that growth in Colorado employment, retail sales and the housing market would continue in 2014.

Natalie Mullis, the legislature’s chief economist, estimated that the state would end the 2013-14 fiscal year with $120.5 million more than the required reserve. That’s actually down $24.5 million from September’s forecast, but Mullis predicted the state would still have $1.37 billion — 16.2 percent — more to spend in 2014-15 than was budgeted for the current fiscal year.

“Because we budgeted conservatively and our economy continues to strengthen, it appears we are in a strong position to continue recovering from the September 2013 floods,” said Rep. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver), the JBC chairwoman. “But our unemployment rate remains too high and our overall recovery is still too spotty. We need to address income inequality in the state and come up with policies to strengthen Colorado’s middle class.

Henry Sobanet, director of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting, predicted the state would wind up with $96 million in excess reserves even after accounting for the governor’s proposal to increase the general fund reserve requirement to 6.5 percent.

“Our economy is still a long way from tip-top shape, but it’s encouraging to see we’re still trending in the right direction,” said Rep. Jenise May (D-Aurora), the other House Democrat on the JBC. “I am hopeful that Colorado is in a strong position for continued economic growth.”

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