Nov 162004
Authors: Kathryn Dailey

The state of Colorado's economy and the issues surrounding Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, also known as TABOR, were the main topics of the keynote speech State Treasurer Mike Coffman gave for CSU's College of Business Summit Fund Tuesday afternoon.

The speech took place in the East Ballroom of the Lory Student Center. About 50 students and professors attended.

"The speech is important for students to hear because there is a lot of negative stigma about TABOR here at the college level," said Jonathan Harms, senior political science and finance major.

TABOR has a lot to do with tuition, said Sara Vaccariello, symposium coordinator and senior finance and real estate major. She said it is the current issue most pertinent to students.

Colorado's current budget deficit took focus as the speech got underway. The state has been using accounting gimmicks and other one-time revenue sources to solve its budget problems, Coffman said.

"It's like someone with a substance abuse problem, who is constantly going out to find a fix to sustain the habit," Coffman said.

He warned that at some point these one-time revenue sources were going to run out.

"When there are no one-time sources left, the system collapses," Coffman said.

Coffman said Amendment 23, which requires increased spending on K-12 education, and the Gallagher Amendment need to be looked at. He said K-12 spending should be a priority, but perhaps not take up almost half of the state budget.

Coffman also suggested the establishment of a "rainy day" fund, which would require the state to save in good economic times, so that it can balance its budget during bad economic times.

To get out of the current budget deficit, Coffman suggested securitizing Colorado's share of the state tobacco settlement. Colorado would sell its share for one lump sum, which would be put into a constitutionally protected trust fund for state education.

This would help stabilize that portion of the budget for another four to five years. Coffman admitted this would be another one-time fix, but it would give time for the next administration to fix the problems with TABOR.

Another reason he said he felt the ties to the tobacco industry should be severed was because it has become a conflict-of-interest for states when part of their revenue is based on cigarette sales. States have ended up as allies with the tobacco industry and the settlement has had the reverse of what it was intended for.

With very little of the budget left to cut, the only major program left is higher education. The possibility of CSU receiving enterprise status, which means that no more than 10 percent of the university's funding would come from the state, and the establishment of vouchers for students, is a way to take tuition out of TABOR.

Dan Thomas, an instructor for the College of Business and Accounting, said he found the speech enlightening.

"It gave me a better understanding of the intricacies of how strapped the state is by mandated spending and how higher education is vulnerable to state cuts," Thomas said.

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