DENVER – Coloradans want home-based care for the elderly and disabled, better access to preschool, decent roads and, possibly, an income-tax increase.
That’s according to the latest results from TBD Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s outreach effort to determine a grand plan for the state.
Leaders of the effort presented some of their findings to Hickenlooper on Tuesday morning. But the governor is not ready to take the results and turn it into his own agenda.
TBD Colorado invited people to 64 meetings around the state in April, with follow-up regional summits in May. About 1,250 people went to the meetings, where they talked about their priorities for the state.
The most popular options – each getting 85 percent to 98 percent support – dealt with better programs for young children and the old or disabled, plus maintenance of the state’s highways.
In addition, about two-thirds of participants said they would go back to the 1999 income tax rate of 5 percent in order to pay for their priorities. The rate is now 4.63 percent.
Hickenlooper said he found the conversations very encouraging because people were open-minded. The crowds were divided well among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters, he said.
The group found consensus on many issues, but not all, he said.
“There is a level of division still on some things that is going to take some more work,” Hickenlooper said.
After the meeting, Hickenlooper told reporters he’s sticking with his long-stated policy of trying to make government more efficient before he would ask for a tax increase.
“I think there’s a great fear among a number of people that there’s just way too much waste in government. I think as long as there’s that supposition, that fear, we’d have a hard time asking for additional resources,” Hickenlooper said.
Still, it was yet another sign that state leaders are beginning to think about tax increases after a decade of treating the prospect as a forbidden topic.
Wade Buchanan of the left-leaning Bell Policy Center said Colorado’s budget has 20 percent less purchasing power than it did a decade ago, and the state will either need to collect more taxes or cut important programs.
“We urge the TBD to continue to boldly put that conversation on the table,” Buchanan said.
A written report by TBD is due to Hickenlooper and the Legislature on Nov. 14.