(Dec. 22) – Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, the vice chairwoman of the legislative Joint Budget Committee, said today that new state revenue forecasts would help clear the way for policies “to ensure that our economic recovery reaches all Coloradans in all areas of the state.”
This morning, the Legislative Council and the governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting issued their quarterly updates of the state’s estimated revenue for the upcoming fiscal year.
According to the more conservative estimate, coming this time from the OSPB, general fund revenue is forecast to be $127 million higher than was predicted in the last quarterly forecast in September. Overall, revenue available for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which begins next June, is forecast to be about $1 billion higher than was appropriated for the 2014-15 budget.
“I’m very encouraged by these reports showing our state’s continued strong economic performance,” she said. “No one should be making any pie-in-the-sky promises, but the upcoming budget process offers us a chance to enact more policies to strengthen Colorado’s middle class and ensure that our economic recovery reaches all Coloradans in all areas of the state.”
The revenue forecasts are directly linked to the state’s overall economic performance. The legislature’s chief economist, Natalie Mullis, estimated Colorado personal income growth at 5.5 percent in 2015 and 7 percent in 2015. Combined with the latest jobs report showing the state’s unemployment rate shrinking to 4.1 percent, the revenue forecasts show Colorado continues to outpace the nation as a whole in economic growth.
Though exact numbers won’t be known until the next quarterly forecast, due in March, both Mullis and Henry Sobanet, the OSPB director, said it appears that some 2015-16 revenue must be set aside for refunds to taxpayers under the Colorado constitutional provisions known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which limits spending growth. Depending on final figures, the TABOR cap may even be reached in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
“The Joint Budget Committee will have many questions to resolve in order to prioritize our state spending in ways that will deliver the best benefit to the people of Colorado,” said Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, a JBC member. “But with the economic recovery continuing, these are good problems to have.”
Mullis warned that economic growth across the state was uneven, and issued a broader caution: “There isn’t enough money to fund everything that every interest group is going to bring to you during the next legislative session.”