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Issue Briefs

Certificates of Participation (18-09)

Capital Construction
State Government
State Revenue & Budget

In lieu of issuing bonds, or using another form of long-term debt, the state often uses a form of lease-purchase agreement called certificates of participation (COPs) to finance the construction of its new facilities. A certificate refers to an investor's proportionate interest in the state's lease payments. COPs give the state the flexibility to build capital facilities even when funds are not available to pay for projects on a pay-as-you-go basis. The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled on two occasions in the last few decades that COPs are not considered a form of long-term debt and thus do not require prior voter approval before issuance. This issue brief explains how COPs work, discusses the historic use of COPs, summarizes the required legislative review, and outlines outstanding issuances.

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