TBD offers a guide, more details needed

The awkwardly named group TBD Colorado (the initials stand for “To Be Determined”) presented a list of recommendations to Gov. John Hickenlooper Wednesday that provide a broad guide to how the state should proceed to deal with its undeniable long-term funding problems, but few specific directions on how to get there.

For instance, with respect to funding for K-12 education, the group said, “Policymakers and Coloradans should continue a conversation that focuses on how additional revenue could be targeted to improve outcomes for students.” The group added, “A revenue increase should be pursued only if these additional dollars come with complete transparency, accountability and are linked to improved outcomes for students.”

That leaves the question of how to obtain new revenue for education wide open.

Similarly, the group recommended ongoing efforts to find additional funding for higher education and the state’s transportation system. And, while TBD mentioned some possibilities, it didn’t specifically recommend any of them.

The organization also recommended what other groups throughout the state have suggested: a change in the way amendments to the state Constitution are made and an effort to modify the triple budget headaches caused by the TABOR and Gallagher amendments and Amendment 23.

TBD, it should be noted, is a private nonprofit group organized at the governor’s request in early 2011. It did not spend state money during its meetings to gather public input and formulate its recommendations.

And, while the group did not offer a highly detailed prescription on how to meet the state’s financial needs, by offering a broad-based plan of priorities, its efforts mesh well with Hickenlooper’s style of management. First conduct planning, with as much public involvement as possible. Then organize to pinpoint specific actions needed, and next implement those actions through the appropriate channels.

In this case, the state Legislature is the appropriate channel for a portion of what TBD Colorado has recommended. The fact both houses are now controlled by Democrats should make it easier for the governor to win support for his agenda.

However, Colorado’s TABOR Amendment remains in force, and that means any tax increases to boost revenue will have to be approved by state taxpayers. While the economy has been slowly improving in the state, it will take a thoughtful and concerted effort by people throughout Colorado to persuade a majority of the state’s voters to support tax increases.

In that regard, the TBD group’s recommendations for continued dialogue throughout the state, for careful consideration of which measures to increase revenue would be best, and for transparency and accountability are sensible.

The group deserves credit for delving into these important issues facing the state, as does Hickenlooper for encouraging it. But the success of its efforts is still to be determined.


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