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DU study on Colorado finances earns national accolades

Charlie Brown, director of DU’s Center for Colorado’s Economic Futures, addresses reporters at a briefing on a preliminary report on Colorado's finances in February.

The University of Denver Center for Colorado’s Economic Future has earned national recognition for its recent work on state finances from the Governmental Research Association (GRA), an organization that encourages public interest study and analysis.

The GRA recognized the center’s phase one report on state finances, “Financing Colorado’s Future: An Analysis of the Fiscal Sustainability of State Government,” presented in February to a joint session of the Colorado Legislature.

The report’s early findings indicate that recent state budget shortfalls are not just a short-term problem caused by a global economic downturn. Instead, the center reported that the state’s budget problems are exacerbated by a structural imbalance underlying the workings of state government that will ensure budget problems persist for years, even as the wider economy improves.

While the center is now focusing on phase two, amending and updating fiscal models and preparing recommendations for repairing the damage, Director Charlie Brown says the national recognition is welcome. The center was honored July 26 with the GRA’s Most Distinguished Research Award.

“It’s a nice honor and we really appreciate the recognition,” Brown says. “When they presented the award, they said the report really exemplifies what governmental research is all about, something that makes considerable impact.”

Brown says since presenting the early findings to the Legislature, he and other authors have been asked to speak about the report at more than 30 gatherings. A day after the center received the GRA award, Brown was on his way to present at a health care symposium at Colorado’s Keystone Resort.

Brown says the report is not static; it continues to expand and evolve.

“We continue to update the problems and the models,” Brown says. “We’re certainly hoping that it will continue to have an impact. It really has created a buzz and a stir.”

Brown says he hopes phase two will be ready for presentation this fall and that it will prove useful to lawmakers faced with ongoing budget challenges.

Legislators originally asked for DU’s assistance with Senate Joint Resolution 10-002, which was approved in 2010 by the Colorado General Assembly. The resolution called on the center to conduct a nonpartisan review of the state financial system. The resulting study examines budgeting needs 15 years into the future.

No public money was spent on the study. The work is funded by the University of Denver with additional support from the Boettcher Foundation, the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, the Colorado Health Foundation, the Colorado Trust, the El Pomar Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, the Piton Foundation and the Rose Community Foundation.

In addition to Brown, authors included Phyllis Resnick, Steven Fisher, Warren Olson, Jeffrey Roberts and Deborah Godshall, with contributions from Henry Sobanet, Tom Dunn, Geoff Withers, James Jacobs, John Zimmerman and Susanna Lienhard.

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