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Tax Policy and Budget

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Each year state decision-makers are tasked with balancing constitutional, statutory, and federal requirements with a host of other considerations, such as competing policy priorities, caseload growth, and the health of the state’s economy to create a budget.  Although the budget is funded with a variety of revenue sources, state taxes provide a significant portion of the revenue Colorado uses to fund its operations.

 

A description of Colorado’s budget process is included below.  Detailed information about the state budget and state taxes, respectively, can be found on the Joint Budget Committee Staff website and in the Online Tax Handbook.  Popular publications related to the state budget and tax policy include:

State Budget
TABOR
Tax Policy
Colorado’s State Budget Process

Formulating the budget involves state departments, the Judicial Branch, the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting (OSPB), and the General Assembly, including its Joint Budget Committee (JBC), JBC Staff , Capital Development Committee (CDC), the Office of Legislative Legal Services, and Legislative Council Staff.  Generally, the process begins with state departments in the Executive Branch preparing a budget request between July and September of each year for review and approval by OSPB.  OSPB then prepares a consolidated request from the Governor, an overview of which is presented to the JBC in September.  State departments also submit any capital construction, property acquisition, and controlled maintenance requests each September.  OSPB prioritizes these requests for the CDC by November 1.

Between November and January, each department and the Judicial Branch has a briefing meeting and a hearing with the JBC.  These meetings provide an opportunity for the JBC members and a JBC staff analyst to discuss operational and funding considerations with representatives of each department.  During this period, the CDC also holds hearings on prioritized capital requests before submitting recommendations to the JBC in January.  

In December, Legislative Council Staff and OSPB each prepare a quarterly economic forecast.  This forecast is used to project the amount of revenue that will be available for appropriation during the next fiscal year.

Using these data, between February and March, JBC staff work with department staff to fine tune each department’s budget request in a process that is referred to as “figure setting.”  The figure setting process includes an opportunity for departments to appeal certain recommendations made by JBC staff, which is referred to as a “comeback.”  At the conclusion of the figure setting process, the JBC votes on the appropriations to be included in the Long Bill for each department.  Simultaneous to this, agencies of the General Assembly submit a budget request for the Legislative Branch, which is enacted in a separate bill, to the Legislative Council for review.

In March, following the approval of the department and capital requests by the JBC, the Long Bill is prepared and introduced as a bill for consideration by the entire General Assembly.  To implement portions of the Long Bill, “companion” bills may be introduced to change other parts of state law.  For instance, the Long Bill could contain funding to expand an existing program and a companion bill might adjust that program’s eligibility criteria contained in statute.  

Public testimony on the Long Bill and its associated companion bills may be offered in the Appropriations Committee of either chamber.  In mid-March, Legislative Council Staff and OSPB update their respective revenue forecasts.  Members and the JBC staff review the Long Bill and propose adjustments to “balance” the budget, or to ensure that the appropriations contained in the Long Bill, companion bills, and the General Assembly’s budget bill are backed by sufficient revenue.  These bills are signed into law in order to take effect on July 1, the first day of the next fiscal year.

Because the budget is based on caseload forecasts, at the start of the following legislative session, “supplemental” bills are introduces to “true-up” the Long Bill from the last year with actual case load data.