It’s becoming a ritual at the State Capitol: a committee is meeting to study the competing pressures of spending mandates and spending limits on the state budget.
Like those before them, this year’s panel has heard from a litany of experts and special interests, almost all of whom will complain about the Gordian knot in which the state budget is entangled.
Yes, Colorado’s budget is complicated and elected officials are often asked to make difficult, sometimes incoherent, fiscal choices. Like it or not, the people of Colorado have, in exchange for their tax dollars, insisted on external checks and balances which sometimes become unbalanced themselves.
What’s missing in these studies is a big picture discussion of the desirable size, role and cost of our state government. Do our families, businesses and communities exist to serve our government or does our government exist to serve us? Also, how much government do we want compared to how much do we want to pay for?
If we exist to serve government, then the state is entitled to a sustainable revenue stream to support the functions that lawmakers and voters have instituted. Voters will inevitably be squeezed for more taxes as the economy slows, which is when we can least afford it.
If government exists to serve us, then the state’s authority to tax and spend must be confined within limits that don’t impose a hardship on families or impair job creation. Lawmakers must prioritize spending and acknowledge that some programs simply cannot be funded.
Recently, the University of Denver released a study that concluded, “