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« The Devil is in the Details | Main | What Was That About the Oil Industry »

Colorado Cash Crunch

Or, the recession hits home.

PERA is finally coming to grips with the fact that it's made promises it can't keep, and it looking for ways to either promise less or require more. So far, nobody's talking about raising taxes or cutting services to meet these obligations. It's a remarkably mature attitude, and one wonders how much of it will survive first contact with actual numbers, and the governor's unionization of employees. Still, the fact that PERA isn't overtly asking for a bailout - yet - is a hopeful sign.

Maybe that's because nobody really believes the governor's budget numbers except the governor. He continues to provide us with non-sequiturs:

Ritter has told legislators that Colorado's economy should survive the downturn better than other states' because the flourishing alternative-energy and oil industries have led to more than two years of job growth - although that string ended in September, and the jobless rate increased to 5.7 percent in October, the highest level in more than four years.

I don't see anyone proposing a severance tax on wind.

More to the point, oil isn't exactly booming right now, and those expensive alternative energy jobs may or may not last with continued subsidies, which come from taxes. Which are kind of running low right now.

Sales tax revenues are expected to dip 3 percent this year from 2007 and corporate income-tax money is predicted to remain flat. But the office forecasts growth of 6.1 percent for sales taxes, 5.1 percent for individual income taxes and 3.9 percent for corporate income taxes next year.

Barring inflation, which will hit costs just as much as revenues, these numbers are wildly optimistic. There's no way the economy grows at these real rates in 2009. But, not to worry:

Even if energy money to the state declines, there won't be a big impact on the budget, according to members of the legislature's Joint Budget Committee. Severance tax revenues go to one-time expenses like park development and local projects. So if oil and gas payments drop, they won't take down standing areas of government, said Sen.-elect Al White, R-Hayden.

And, if revenue projections are way off, legislators say they can hold down spending to keep things in check. Bills featuring new programs that aren't self-sustaining will have a hard time getting out of committees, said House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville.

Uh-huh. On one hand, the robust oil and new energy economy will save us. On the other hand, if they don't well, it won't really affect the general fund, anyway. But we were told during the campaign that the TABOR spending limits were, "insane." Yes, one candidate for HD-6 actually called them, "insane."

Watch out. These revenue numbers are really going to drive her nuts.

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