(March 19) – The state government’s leading economists issued sunny forecasts today while warning of increasing volatility that could cause the Colorado economy to, as the chief legislative economist put it, “turn on a dime.”
Issuing their quarterly updates on economic trends and state revenues, Kate Watkins, the chief economist of the Legislative Council, and Henry Sobanet, the director of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting, told the legislative Joint Budget Committee this afternoon that the Colorado economy continues to strengthen, though with increased risks of overheating and recession.
“These forecasts are good news for Colorado and will give us some opportunities for critical investments,” said Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, the chairwoman of the JBC. “With so much pent-up need, we still have hard choices to make as we complete our negotiation of a balanced, bipartisan budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.”
A draft state budget is scheduled to be introduced in the House in a week.
Both economists predicted a robust rise in state revenues in the current fiscal year – $329 million more than predicted in December’s forecast, according to Watkins; $309 million more in Sobanet’s estimate – and somewhat slower growth in the 2018-19 fiscal year, which starts July 1.
“We have a great opportunity to make strategic investments in services that will help hardworking Coloradans across the state, including greater investments in our schools and our roads,” said Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, who also sits on the JBC. “In the long term, we need to address the $6.7 billion hole in K-12 operations and the $18 billion hole in K-12 capital construction and repair needs.”