Colorado transportation, education funding yet to catch up to population

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DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado’s population may be booming and its politics changing, but it has kept some of its more conservative fiscal habits for now. Both education funding and transportation funding show a disconnect between Colorado’s 21st century status and its spending.

Among other organizations calling for more public money in a cash-strapped post-COVID country, business coalition A Way Forward will lobby the state for more transportation funding in the 2021 legislative year.

The group is comprised of both government leaders such as Gov. Jared Polis and business leaders who would do the bulk of the work. They point to studies that underline the problem. Colorado’s transportation was built for 3.5 million people, not the nearly 6 million that now call Colorado home or the over 8 million who are expected will be here in 2050.

“This is about more than just roads and bridges, but really addresses the challenges that our crumbling transportation system poses to Colorado’s economic vitality,” said Greg Fulton, president, Colorado Motor Carriers Association, during a Tuesday press meeting.

Data Desk took a look at some comprehensive U.S. Census Bureau records and found a trend. Colorado now holds 1.7% of the U.S. population, ranked 20th overall. Some of its spending, however, has not kept pace.

Transportation, public safety and education spending illustrate the point.

Where Colorado ranks nationally depends on the what finances you examine. No U.S. states only fund their transportation infrastructure with state money. Local governments pitch in, often as much or more than states themselves.

Colorado ranks 29th for state spending on transportation. However, its statewide total of local government transportation spending on transportation ranks 13th. Combined, local and state transportation spending in Colorado is 15th, slightly more than its share of the U.S. population.

Per resident, however, Colorado is spending well below its share of the U.S. population. Per resident, it ranks 34th.

Public safety spending does not follow the same pattern. It is more consistent the state’s population.

Colorado ranks 17th in public safety spending of both state and local sources.

In contrast to transportation, public safety spending is equal when broken down by population. Colorado is 16th in total public safety dollars spent per resident.

While Colorado spends evenly across public safety, education funding does not match population. Colorado spends the 15th least amount on elementary and secondary schooling.

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