Rethinking Colorado’s Government:

The University of Denver Strategic Issues Program today releases its report on Colorado’s long-running fiscal crisis. The report, Rethinking Colorado’s Government, represents a year of study by a non-partisan panel of 20 accomplished business, professional and community leaders drawn from across the state. The work was funded by the University as part of its ongoing commitment to the public good.

 During its process, the panel received more than 30 presentations from officials, experts and advocates in government, business, labor, health care, academia and more. In addition to receiving presentations, panel members reviewed a wide range of written materials and held extensive discussions on key issues facing Colorado and other states. The enclosed report reflects the consensus of the University of Denver Strategic Issues Panel on State Government.

 The report concludes that Colorado, like many other states, suffers from a cyclical and structural fiscal imbalance that undermines Colorado’s fiscal stability over the long term. While Colorado’s budget situation may slowly improve as the economy recovers, it is poised to founder once again at the next economic downturn. Given Colorado’s fragile financial situation, the panel concluded that achieving a strong and sustainable fiscal environment requires a fundamental rethinking of traditional governmental practices.

“There are no simple answers, and this time, history does not seem to inform a clear path forward: the solutions of the past seem to be generally ineffective in the present,” says DU Chancellor Robert Coombe. “Our panel concentrated on broad principles and on the structure of government, seeking to define changes that would enhance long term fiscal stability and at the same time be applicable to a variety of policy areas.”

A copy of the full report, along with video presentations from experts who provided information to the panel, is available online at

“These principles do not offer simple solutions or quick fixes. The problems facing Colorado and other states will not be solved in a single stroke,” says panel chair James Griesemer. “What the principles do provide are new ways to think about deeply-imbedded problems. They focus first on creating value for citizens rather than simply supporting bureaucracies and funding institutions. The principles reflect a faith in citizens to make sound choices. By encouraging government to demonstrate areas where value is being created they provide a means for building citizen support.”

Key Principles

To get past the gridlocked debates over fiscal policy, the panel proposed a set of principles for policy making that differ significantly from “business as usual” government. Taken together, the principles suggest the need for state government to:

• Reframe government; place citizens, rather than the institution of government, at the center of public discourse and decision making.

• Focus on value; shift the focus of government to creating measurable value for citizens instead of thinking in traditional institutional terms.

• Change the financial structure; use accountability centers to facilitate value assessment, dampen fiscal imbalance and highlight public subsidies.

• Foster competition; focus on outcomes, with the state acting as an enabler, not necessarily the provider, of public services.

• Leverage market forces; allocate resources based on citizen demand, focusing primarily on supporting individuals rather than operating institutions.

• Fully fund programs; align authority and responsibility in intergovernmental activities, eliminate unfunded mandates and fully fund annual state obligations.


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