Economists look to Millennials to fix Colorado’s broken tax system

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ACK in 2011, responding to a request from state lawmakers, economists looked into Colorado’s fiscal future.  What they saw has been haunting those with public revenue on their minds ever since.

“Twelve years from now, Colorado will generate only enough sales, income and other general-purpose tax revenue to pay for the three largest programs in the general fund — public schools, health care and prisons,” read the report, issued by the Center for Colorado’s Economic Future at the University of Denver. 

That economics team since has changed its name and is now working out of Colorado State University as the “Colorado Futures Center.” Still, their mission to forecast and analyze the state’s long-term budgeting hasn’t changed.

Just this spring, Futures released an Internet zeitgeist-friendly animated video that updates the findings of the previous study with new information about how our state is recovering post-Great Recession. It even highlights a few ways we could *vote* to get ourselves out of this mess.

“We did this video because, even though we’ve been out doing 150-200 speeches statewide on this issue, that’s still a small segment of the population,” said Phyllis Resnick, the lead economist at Futures. “We’re trying to reach a wider and younger population, so it’s tailored to Millennials who like to get their information off the Internet.”

Futures is picking up a big and worthy fight here. Essentially any fix to the structural problems with Colorado’s tax code would require the support of voters because of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Resnick said it’s too soon to bring tax reform (and increase) questions to the voters. People are still recovering from the Recession and, crucially, statewide understanding of the issue just isn’t there yet. She estimates that though we won’t see the impacts of a sapped state budget for at least a decade, we should probably start tackling the issue before this one is over.

More Millennials (folks 18 – 29 years old) are flocking to Colorado, specifically Denver, than just about anywhere else.  And even as the economy improves, poll after poll shows that the young folk  hate sales taxes, distrust public institutions, and may even be more frugally-minded than their elders.

Hence the video, which you can check out below. And hence its target audience.

“We don’t see a way out of this problem without the voters,” Resnick concluded.


Colorado Quality of Life from Colorado State University on Vimeo.