Colorado 2014 budget outlook improves by $228 million

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OSPB Director Henry Sobanet (left) and Legislative Council economist Natalie Mullis briefing the Joint Budget Committee last year.

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DENVER — Colorado is expected to have $228 million in revenues for next year’s budget than was anticipated just three months ago, evidence of real momentum behind the state’s economic recovery according to economists at the Capitol.

In total, next year’s state budget will be roughly $1 billion larger than the current year’s.

“We’re at a point where we’ve reached a critical mass,” said Natalie Mullis, the chief economist for Colorado’s legislative council. “The forces driving the economy forward toward recovery are now greater than those driving it down.”

Taxes on capital gains and severance taxes revenues account for much of the growth, according to Henry Sobanet, the executive director of the governor’s Office of State Planning and Budget.

“Our job growth is really strong,” said Sobanet, noting that Colorado ranks fourth in job growth and among national leaders in entrepreneurship and the number of start-ups taking root here.

“Unemployment continues to be a problem.”

The quarterly forecast released Monday comes just as state lawmakers are beginning to debate the state budget, which is likely to be finalized in April.

“Colorado’s economic recovery is gaining strength, but lawmakers need to recognize that sequestration cuts and looming federal tax increases will have an impact on our economy; and although our unemployment rate is slowly declining, it is still unacceptably high,” said House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs.

“Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle need to remain prudent with taxpayer dollars as the General Assembly prepares to debate next year’s budget.”

The impact of $1.2 billion in sequestration cuts on Colorado is expected to slow Colorado’s economic growth by about one percent.

Overall, Mullis told lawmakers that the state may see its first TABOR revenue surplus in more than a decade by Fiscal Year 2014-15.

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