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State Finances

 

A Taxpayer's Guide to Understanding Colorado's Finances


 

Treasury's website provides links to comprehensive information on Colorado's finances including taxes, revenues, expenditures, assets and liabilities, land holdings, pension fund obligations, college savings plans, state investments, and more.


 

This website is designed to help taxpayers navigate Colorado's complex budget to find answers to questions about how their state tax dollars are used.

 

Each year the Treasury Department publishes the State Taxpayer Accountability Report (STAR), which provides a general overview of Colorado state finances. To download the Fiscal Year 2010-2011 State Taxpayer Accountability Report, please  click here.


 

In Fiscal Year 2011-12, Colorado will spend nearly $18 billion in taxes, fees, tuition, rents, royalties, federal distributions, interest earnings, and a variety of other revenue sources.


 

The state will pay to educate nearly one million students, provide health care to over 400,000 citizens, house approximately 25,000 prisoners, manage over 3 million acres of land, maintain over 23,000 lane miles of highways, and pay for other essential services including the courts, disease control, parks, clean air and drinking water, and law enforcement, to name just a few.


 

Overall, Colorado's government comprises roughly 7% of the state's economy.


 

Many public services are provided through local governments, often with a combination of federal, state, and local resources. For more information on services in your community please visit your local government website.


 

For any other questions on Colorado's finances or for suggestions about what else might be included, please email us at treasurer.stapleton@state.co.us or call (303) 866-2441.


 

Where can I find a report on the state's finances?

In 2011, the Colorado State Treasurer, in conjunction with the Governor and the State Controller, published the sixth annual State Taxpayer Accountability Report (STAR). This report summarizes the fiscal operations of the state for the most recently audited fiscal year in an easy-to-read, accessible format. You can download the report  here.


 

Where can I find a more comprehensive, in-depth report on Colorado revenue and spending?

The state's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) is prepared each fiscal year by the State Controller's Office. It is the state's official record of the fiscal activities of the year, and is independently audited. You can download the CAFR from the State Controller's website.


 

Where can I find information about revenue collected by the state?

Information about tax revenue collected by the State of Colorado can be found on the Colorado Department of Revenue website. The Department of Revenue's Annual Report contains comprehensive information about the state's revenue from the most recently completed and audited fiscal year (2011-12). The Department's website also has answers to common questions regarding tax collections in Colorado. The Legislative Council Staff has also prepared a Colorado Tax Handbook that is a short summary of all state taxes.


 

What are the current revenue projections for the state?

The Governor's Office of State Planning and Budgeting prepares quarterly economic forecasts for state revenue; quarterly forecasts are also done for the state legislature by the Legislative Council Staff.


 

What is the state and local tax burden for Coloradans?

Every five years the Colorado Department of Revenue publishes a tax profile study that analyzes the amount of state and local taxes paid by Coloradans. The Legislative Council Staff has also published information on state and local tax burden. The Governor's Office of State Planning and Budgeting has also recently completed an analysis of Colorado's state tax ranking.


 

Where can I find information about the state's budget process?

The state's annual budget is set in a process between the Governor and the Legislature. The Governor prepares and submits a budget request to the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee. After hearing from each of the departments, the Joint Budget Committee prepares the Long Appropriations Bill otherwise known as the Long Bill. Once the Long Bill has been debated and passed by the Legislature, the Governor can sign or veto all or part of the bill. The Office of State Planning and Budgeting has more detailed information about the state's budget process.


 

What do state taxpayers buy with their money?

The state spends revenue on a variety of goods and services summarized in the Budget in Brief, a document prepared by Colorado's Joint Budget Committee. For more detailed information, the Long Appropriations Bill  and Annual Appropriations report  contain the complete state budget for the year.


 

How does Colorado fund K-12 education?

Kindergarten through twelfth-grade education represents the largest single portion of the state's annual budget. In Fiscal Year 2007-08, K-12 education accounted for 42.3% of the state's General Fund budget. Funding for K-12 education is distributed to school districts annually through the School Finance Act. The Legislative Council Staff prepares a number of documents and reports on the subject of distribution of K-12 education dollars; the Colorado Department of Education  also prepares a lot of information on school finance.


 

Where can I find information about the state's spending on transportation?

State spending on transportation accounted for about 6.2% of the state's total budget in Fiscal Year 2007-08 and amounted to approximately $1.1 billion. Information about state spending on transportation can be found on the Colorado Department of Transportation website. In 2007 Governor Ritter also established a blue ribbon panel to explore funding and implementation options for Colorado's transportation, and information about transportation funding and spending can be found on the panel's website.


 

Where can I find information about the state's spending on health care?

State spending on health care accounted for about 19.7% of the state's General Fund budget in Fiscal Year 2007-08, making it the second largest portion of the state's General Fund budget after K-12 education. Information on state spending on healthcare can be found on the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing's website. The Legislative Council Staff also publishes an annual Health Care Resource Book that has information about all health care spending in the state.


 

Where can I find information about the financial requirements in Colorado's Constitution?

The state has a number of unique fiscal provisions in its state constitution. In 2003 the legislature's Legislative Council Staff prepared a study on TABOR, Amendment 23, the Gallagher Amendment, and Other Fiscal Issues. In addition, although not a constitutional provision, in 2005 state voters approved referendum C, which affected the operation of the TABOR amendment. The referendum required an Annual Report on Referendum C revenue to be prepared by the Legislative Council Staff; also The Governor's Office of State Planning and Budgeting has prepared a Memo on Referendum C.


 

Please let us know what questions you have. Email us at treasurer.stapleton@state.co.us and put budget question in the subject line.