A Colorado Test

Filed under: Opinion |

Editor’s note: In December, the University of Denver announced the formation of the Colorado Economic Futures Panel to analyze the state’s fiscal situation and provide a platform for informed discussion and possible solutions. Sixteen business and civic leaders from across the state comprise the panel, including Dick Celeste, president of Colorado College. This is the second of a series of columns that the panel plans to submit until early April, when the panel expects to complete the first phase of its work.

What makes up Colorado’s state and local governments? How do they spend their money?

We at the Colorado Economic Futures Panel at the University of Denver are exploring just those types of questions as we consider changes that might improve the services the state provides, as well as its overall economy. Our study is still under way, but we’ve already unearthed some interesting facts.

Test your knowledge with these eight questions:

A) Experts say the retirement of the “baby boom” generation will pose challenges to governments that must aid seniors with medical care and other expenses. In the 2000 census, Colorado ranked first in the nation for what age group as a percent of its total population?

1. Under age 18?

2. 25 to 44 years?

3. 65 years and over?

B) Some say small local governments are close – and responsive – to their residents. Others argue having many governments may mean duplicate services and high costs. How many units of local government were there in Colorado at the end of 2004 (e.g. cities, counties, special districts, school districts)?

1. 178

2. 269

3. 936

4. 1,944

5. 2,455

C) Colorado is unusual in that its state taxes are relatively low, while local government taxes rank higher than average. Where did we rank in state government taxes related to total personal income in the state in 2003?

1. 3rd

2. 11th

3. 46th

4. 48th

5. 50th

D) Medicaid and related health care programs for low-income, elderly and disabled people, accounted for 22 percent of the state operating budget in FY 2005. The percentage of the Colorado population served by Medicaid is:

1. One in six kids up to 18

2. One in three deliveries at birth

3. One in 10 residents over age 65

4. One of every 12 Colorado residents overall

5. All of the above

E) What is the maximum annual financial support a Colorado family of three can receive from welfare and food stamps?

1. $8,724

2. $15,670

3. $18,732

4. $31,450 F) Colorado is in the top 10 states in terms of per capita income. Where does Colorado rank nationally in the percentage of adults with at least a four-year college degree?

1. Top three

2.10th to 12th

3. 32nd to 34th

4. 48th to 50th

5. None of the above

G) Colorado’s population grew 59 percent from 1980 to 2004. During that same period, our laws were changed to impose longer sentences on felons. How much did our prison population grow during those 24 years?

1. 59 percent

2. 159 percent

3. 236 percent

4. 590 percent

5. 876 percent

H) Who is to blame for the budget crisis in the state?

1. What crisis?

2. Governor and Legislature

3. Hold up a mirror

m People in Wyoming

Answer Code (correct answer circled):

A: 2 Colorado was tied for 22nd for population under age 18, and 47th for residents 65 and over.

B: 5 Colorado has 178 K-12 school districts; 269 municipalities; 64 counties (two of those – Denver and Broomfield – are also municipalities); and 1,944 special and other districts.

C: 5 Colorado ranked 50th in taxes as a percentage of personal income in 2003 – in 2002 it was 49th. In 2002, Colorado’s local governments ranked third for their share of combined state and local tax revenue; 11th in local government tax revenue as a percentage of personal income, and 46th in combined state and local government tax revenue as a percentage of income.

D: 5 Medicaid provides health and long-term care for more than 360,000 low-income children, families, and elderly and disabled Coloradans. Colorado has some of the most restrictive eligibility criteria in the nation. Its portion of the state budget is second only to K-12 education.

E: 1 A three-person family receiving the maximum assistance in Colorado would have an annual income equal to only 56 percent of the federal poverty level of $15,670. Some research shows a three-person family needs at least $18,732 in income to live in Denver without government support.

F:1 Colorado ranks in the top three states in residents 25 and over with at least a bachelor’s degree. More than one-third of our population has reached this level of education compared with one-quarter of the nation. Colorado has significantly exceeded the nation in higher educational attainment since at least 1940.

G: 4 In 1980 there was one prisoner for every 1,031 residents. In 2004, it was one per 238 residents.

H: Your pick! Unfortunately there’s enough blame to go around. If you answered j, you’ve either been out of state for the past couple years or support the philosophy that government should shrink to a size that will fit in your bathtub. If you answered k and l combined, you won the daily double with what is probably the right answer. The people in Wyoming are doing nicely with a huge budget surplus, and politely ask that we mind our own business.

Kim Patmore is executive vice president and chief financial officer for First Data Corp. Richard “Dick” L. Robinson is co-CEO of Robinson Dairy.