State's dynamic growth leads to change

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 part of a series of columns that the panel plans to submit before completing the first phase of its work.

In many ways, Colorado is a unique and constantly changing state.

Over the past 25 years, we have experienced periods of rapid growth, which have changed who we are, our sense of history and tradition, and our attitudes about government and community.

Growth also has strained the financial resources of state and local governments to keep up with infrastructure needs.

The Colorado Economic Futures Panel at the University of Denver is exploring just those types of issues as they evaluate where we are as a state and where we are going. The study is still under way, but some interesting facts have come to the surface.

Test your knowledge with these six questions:

A) Colorado’s population rose dramatically during the 1970s as the baby boomers listened to “Rocky Mountain High” and flocked west. Colorado grew by 30.8 percent during that decade compared with the national rate of 11.4 percent. During the 1980s, however, the state’s growth rate was 14 percent compared with the national rate of 9.8 percent. In the 1990s, the nation grew by 13.2 percent. What was Colorado’s population growth in the 1990s?

1 15.4%

2 23.6%

3 30.6%

4 37.9%

B) People moving to another state often take with them perceptions and attitudes about government and community that were formed in their state of origin and apply them to their new state. In addition, communities experiencing a significant influx of residents from other states generally lack a sense of community history and traditions. On the other hand, people changing residences bring new traditions and ideas to their new homes and are more likely to adopt changes. According to the 2000 Census, how did Colorado rank among the 50 states in the percentage of its population born in the state of residence (born in Colorado)?

1 4th

2 23rd

3 31st

4 43rd

5 46th

C) Per capita income is one of the major measurements of wealth. Often, it also is used by the federal government in formulas for distributing federal funds. Colorado fell from 13th in 1980 to 18th in 1990 in per capita personal income. Where did Colorado rank in 2000 in per capita income?

1 7th

2 9th

3 15th

4 18th

5 27th

D) State and local governments issue debt in various forms to pay for construction of buildings and roads and other public improvements. Local government debt increased by approximately 28 percent from 1995 to 2003, from $15.5 billion to $19.8 billion. During the same period, how much did state government debt increase?

1 19%

2 38%

3 87%

4 146%

5 186%

E) In comparison to other states, Colorado’s state government is relatively small and limited in its power and resources. Conversely, in the absence of a large state government, Colorado has a strong and growing system of local governments, with over 2,500 units of local government. Local governments include counties, cities, school districts and special districts. The most recently formed new units of local government were created in the 2004 election. How many new local governments were created during the 2004 election?

1 23

2 47

3 67

4 82

5 96

F) Special districts are local governments created for limited purposes, often to accommodate new development. Rapid population growth often results in the creation of new special districts. In 2002, Colorado ranked 23rd in the nation in population. What was our rank in the number of special districts?

1 3rd

2 7th

3 15th

4 23rd

5 32nd

Answer Code (correct answer circled):

A: 3 Colorado grew by 30.6 percent during the 1990s. Colorado was the third fastest growing state in the nation during the decade, after Nevada and Arizona. Eight of the 12 fastest growing states were in the western United States.

B: 5 Colorado’s rank of 46th for the percentage of its population born in the state reflects the high in-migration into the state during the past few decades. Colorado’s 41 percent was far lower than the national average of 60 percent. Colorado placed fourth highest in the percentage of population from another state between 1995 and 2000.

C: 1 Colorado rose to 7th in per capita income in 2000, excluding Washington, D.C. Even after the economic downturn and the impact of September 11th, Colorado has remained in a very wealthy state – still in 7th place – as of 2004, the latest year for this data. However, Colorado was 38th in the rate of growth between 2003 and 2004 in per capita personal income.

D: 5 In 2003 total state government debt reached nearly $8 billion, reflecting a rate of growth of 186 percent since 1995. State government debt includes the debt of state-created, quasi-public entities such as the Colorado Postsecondary Education Facilities Authority, the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and many others. State government debt also includes multi-year financial obligations for projects such as T-REX.

E: 4 82 new special districts were added during the 2004 election. Of our more than 2,500 local governments, at least four out of five are special districts. These range from fire, water and sanitation districts to metropolitan districts-districts that provide at least two types of services.

F: 2 Colorado’s rank was 7th in the nation. In 2002, only the following states had more special districts than Colorado: California, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The University of Denver established the Colorado Economic Futures Panel to analyze the state’s difficult fiscal situation and provide a platform for informed discussion and possible solutions.