Colorado's economy is showing signs of slowing down, growing at a more moderate pace than the last two years, the Governor's Office of State Planning and Budgeting said Friday in its quarterly forecast of projected state revenue.
But even if Gov. Jared Polis gets his wish list of policy priorities, including his $227 million proposal for full-day kindergarten, the state budget would still have $29.6 million in surplus, according to the new projections.
“Our economy remains strong and the legislature will have $29.6 million more than anticipated to invest," Polis said in a statement Friday afternoon.
"My administration is focused on supporting Colorado families by relieving them from financial stress and free full-day kindergarten and lowering health care costs do just that.”
Kelly Causey, president and CEO of the advocacy group Colorado Children’s Campaign, applauded Polis' priority on education.
"On behalf of the parents, children, and the numerous advocates who have endorsed full-day kindergarten, I urge legislators to finally make good on the promise of fully funding kindergarten," she said in a statement.
The Democratic-led legislature will present Polis a budget with lawmakers' priorities by the end of the current session, which is May 3. The next state budget takes effect on July 1.
The tax dollars flowing into that budget, however, were revised down by $200.8 million, based on a December revenue forecast, while the revenue hopes for the next budget was trimmed by $193.8 million three months ago.
Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, chairs the Joint Budget Committee, the bipartisan, bicameral panel that writes the proposed state spending plan.
“While this budget forecast might not be as strong as we hoped for, the Joint Budget Committee's priority must be to serve as responsible stewards of taxpayers dollars as we work to balance the state budget,” he said. “I am still confident that we will be able to find a way forward that protects the state’s finances while also delivering on many of the important legislative priorities that our Democratic majorities were elected on.”
State economists say revenue could rebound, at least partially, as those who estimate their tax payments get more comfortable with the revisions brought by the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress in 2017.
The governor's report said that while Colorado's unemployment remains low, a "rapidly growing" labor force means more workers are available to fill jobs or force.
Overall inflation is "mild," and rising rent and home prices seem to be settling down, according to the quarterly economic forecast.
Transportation advocates want to see new budget dollars going into the state's ailing, crowded roads and bridges.
“Colorado’s economy continues to thrive and it is imperative that the Joint Budget Committee, governor and all legislators invest a portion of the growth in our economy in our infrastructure," Sandra Hagen Solin of the statewide coalition called Fix Colorado Roads said in a statement.
She said Coloradans "have had enough" and expect the legislature to pony up.
“By dedicating a portion of the new general fund revenue reported today and creatively developing new funding methods that effectively modernize the way we fund transportation, the legislature must take bold steps to address Colorado’s growing transportation crisis," Solin said. "Failure to act is no longer an option. If not now, when?”