Colorado Children’s Budget 2011

Date Posted: December 22, 2011

According to the Colorado Children’s Budget 2011, released December 21, 2011 by the Colorado Children’s Campaign, children have claimed a shrinking share of Colorado’s total state budget since FY 2009-10, despite a growing child population and increasing child poverty rates. The portion of the state budget supporting children’s programs and services decreased from 45.3 percent in FY 2009–10 to 41.7 percent in the current fiscal year. The Colorado Children’s Budget 2011 analyzes Colorado’s public investments in programs and services supporting children for the past five years, a period marked by a severe recession and weak economic recovery.

Over the five-year period analyzed in this report, Colorado’s investment in children’s programs grew at an average annual rate of 3.3 percent, just enough to keep pace with inflation and the growth in child population. However, the average annual growth rate was boosted due to the temporary infusion of federal dollars through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which has now been mostly spent. Since the peak in FY 2009–10, investments in children’s programs decreased by 6.4 percent in FY 2010–11 and 4.7 percent in FY 2011–12, when taking into account inflation and the growth in child population.

Based on initial FY 2012–13 state revenue projections, possible decreases in federal support for discretionary children’s programs, and continued structural imbalances in the state budget, children’s programs are likely to face additional cuts in the upcoming year.

The Children’s Budget 2011 is intended to serve as a resource guide for policymakers and advocates who are interested in better understanding how Colorado funds children’s programs and services and to help unravel the often confusing and complicated details of the state budget. The report provides detailed information on appropriations and sources of financing for programs which help children across four domains: early childhood learning and development, health, K-12 education, and other support services.

Other key findings:

• When it comes to specific programs, appropriation data from FY 2007–08 through FY 2011–12 show that, overall, whether or not a program experienced growth hinged on one of three factors: (1) state constitutional protection; (2) dedicated cash fund revenue stream; or (3) ability to leverage substantial federal funding. If none of these exist, investments usually failed to keep pace with inflation and population.

• Colorado relies heavily on federal grants to deliver services and support for children and families and future flows of these funds are uncertain. In the current fiscal year (after most ARRA funds were spent), federal grants account for more than one-quarter of state spending on children, with the level of dependence on federal funding varying greatly by domain. Nationally, federal spending on children is projected to decline as a proportion of the federal budget.

• Programs absorbing cuts during the five-year period covered in the report include K-12 education, Early Intervention Services, the Colorado Preschool Program, the Child Care Assistance Program, summer and after-school programs, public health and prevention programming, programs enhancing economic security for low-income families with children, child welfare services, and youth corrections.

• Colorado’s constitutional fiscal constraints and its reliance on a revenue system not capable of keeping up with state program commitments continue to pose challenges to lawmakers as they struggle to balance the budget and meet the needs of Colorado’s children in a recovering, but still sluggish, economy.

Special Thanks to our sponsors – The Colorado Trust, The Colorado Health Foundation, First Focus, and The Women’s Foundation of Colorado. 

Colorado Children's Budget 2011