Jerry Kopel

August 5, 2006
Perhaps you wonder what Gov. Bill Owens keeps on his executive office desk. Only thousands know, so I will let you in on the secret. It's a copy of the latest Source Book published by Governing Magazine which is a subsidiary of Congressional Quarterly, Inc.
The 2006 Source Book editor Peter Harkness starts off his introductory column:
"Colorado Governor Bill Owens once told an audience at one of our conferences that he kept a copy of Governing's State and Local Source Book on his desk all year, referring to it constantly. It's not hard to understand why..."
Actually, it would be even better if the governor kept the last five Source Book issues handy so that he can see where Colorado has gone for either better or worse.
This column begins with "Economies", a source of press releases when Colorado was one of the top five states. I will compare the present with the past.
According to the U.S. Dept of Labor Statistics for March 2006, Colorado had 119,500 unemployed which ranked us 26th in percent of unemployment rate, a rate of 4.6 percent. (rest is the same until the last sentence in the second graph)  In this category it is much better to be low (34) rather than in the middle (26).
In October of 2001 (the month used by Source Book) we had 99,300 unemployed which ranked us 34th, tied with Massachusetts and Utah for that rate compared to the total  labor force. The Colorado 2001 rate was 4.2 percent compared to the national rate of 4.9. percent.
Assuming the Source Book numbers are accurate, Colorado has 20 percent-plus more unemployment in the labor force in 2006 compared to 2001.
In this category, it is much better to be  low (34) rather than high (14).
Economic Growth
On percentage change in employment between 2001 to 2006 we rank 37th tied with North Carolina, which makes us tied for 13th from the bottom, beating out eight states than lost employment numbers and four other states with even weaker numbers than Colorado.
On percent of change in personal income, the figures are not exact, but pretty close because of different years used by Source Book to make the count. For the increase between 1997 and 2000, we were FIRST (and that made the papers). For the increase between 2002 and 2005, we were 26th.
Economic Momentum
This is a measure by Source Book of the most recent one-year change in employment, personal income and population. The index related each state's performance to the national average set at zero.
In September of 2001 we ranked second, beaten only by Nevada (and that also made the papers). In March of 2006 we ranked 13th which certainly is still a decent number.
Public School Enrollment
Numbers of children in public education look good.
The numbers are from the 2002 Source Book (recording 2001 numbers) and 2006 Source Book (recording 2005 numbers). In 2001, we had 724,508 in K-12 enrollment which ranked us 21st in percent of total population. In 2005 we ranked 14th in percent of total population with 766,707 in K-12.
We had a major increase in higher education enrollment, which is probably contrary to popular belief. In 2001 we had 219,436 in higher education classes compared to 306,370 in 2005. However, we dropped from 7th to 11th place, which is still a worthy number.
Comparison To Our Peers
Economic comparisons with states where we held our own in the past: In high numerical numbers they are Nevada, Arizona,  Utah and Florida, in that order. My review found those states still up there in economic growth  (1, 2, 8, and 9th) and economic momentum  (1, 2, 3, and 5th). And we are not there with them.

* * * *

Is there a possibility, as recently reported, of the 2018 Winter Olympics being hosted by Denver? How many cities such as Denver came out of hosting the Olympics with a profit? Don't we know how many cities and states and countries are still paying off the debts incurred when they "hosted the Olympics" ? Colorado had the chance in 1976 and the voters passed Amendment 8 in 1972:
"An act to amend Article X1 of the State Constitution to prohibit the States from levying taxes and appropriating or loaning funds for the purpose of aiding or furthering the 1976 Winter Olympic Games."
The vote was 514,228 to 350,964. Only eight mostly smaller county populations voted against the initiative.
Considering the number of new residents since 1972 and the natives at least 10 years old back in 1972  (who are now 44 and will be 56 in 2018), it might be a good idea for someone to consider an initiative similar to that of 1972.  How about it, Dick Lamm? It's deja vu all over again.
The question remains: Who is going to pay for it? Not me. I will very likely be "gone" by then.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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