BY FREDA MIKLIN
CSI released its 2023 Colorado Free Enterprise Report (Report) with a panel discussion at Empower Field at Mile High on December 13. Panelists were Evelyn Lim, CSI 2022 Mike A. Leprino Fellow and the Director of Policy and Research at the American Cornerstone Institute, Chris Brown, CSI Vice President of Policy & Research, and Kelly Caufield, CSI’s executive director.
The Report is organized around the policy areas that drive CSI’s ongoing research in furtherance of its chief goal of protecting and promoting Colorado’s economy. Those areas are:
- Jobs & The Economy
- Energy & Our Environment
- Health Care
- Housing & Our Community
- State Budget
- Taxes & Fees
In the area of Jobs & The Economy, noting that Colorado’s employment growth between Q3 2021 and Q3 2022 ranked seventh among all states, inflation and unemployment are below the national average, and the labor force participation rate is higher than it was pre-pandemic, CSI gave it a four-out-of-five performance rating.
With twice as many job openings as people were unemployed, the possibility of recession looming, and the negative financial impact on employers and employees of the start of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program, CSI rated the outlook for Jobs & The Economy as negative.
CSI gave Health Care a three-out-of-five performance rating and determined the outlook in this area was negative because it expects health insurance premiums to increate “at a rate almost double the national average in 2023,” while four health insurance carriers announced they are pulling out of at least one of our state’s health insurance markets during the first year of the Colorado Option, “which imposes strict price controls for plans offered in the individual and small-group markets.”
They noted that Colorado is one of the country’s healthiest states, with relatively low rates of obesity and smoking, compared to many others.
The Report also pointed to the high quality of health care in our state.
In addition to the strict price controls associated with the Colorado Option, CSI pointed to the Colorado Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board as an example of government interference with free enterprise.
Another area of consistently high focus in our state is Housing & Our Community, which CSI pointed out had the 13th-highest one-year price appreciation rate in 2022 at 22.6%, though it must be noted that recent events, including rising interest rates and the threat of an economic recession, have caused that rise to cool significantly. CSI also notes that the year-end housing deficit was 116,907 units statewide, an increase of 12,763 from the prior year. They also point out that Colorado ranks in the bottom ten of all states in the effective residential property tax rate and single-family home purchasing power. Also listed as a negative for our community is our state’s diminished prison population, which CSI attributes to “progressive criminal justice reform measures (which) have reduced the punishments for certain crimes,” not a reduction in crime itself. Rather, the report points to increased rates of violent and property crimes. For all these reasons, CSI gave this category a one-out-of-five performance rating.
The passage of Proposition 123 in November, which will create a statewide affordable housing fund that will be used for multiple housing programs, CSI saw as highly significant. They pointed to the importance of local governments, however, which have the option of choosing not to participate in the affordable housing program.
Also impacting the future are three other laws passed in 2022, Crime Prevention through Safer Streets, Creation of Colorado Workforce Housing Trust Authority, and Recertification and Theft of Catalytic Converters.
For these reasons, the category of Housing & Our Community was awarded a neutral outlook by CSI.
Areas of opportunity on which Coloradans should focus in 2023 that the CSI panel identified in their roundtable discussion were:
K-12 school choice policy, which could become a reality for more students with the increased focus on transportation
State investing in innovative partnerships between higher education and industry, which could be leveraged to address workforce needs.
$2.2 billion state general fund reserve in Gov. Polis’ budget, a record high
2022 general assembly addressed funding challenges for PERA (Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association) and the shortfall in the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund, heading off the need for huge raises on the state’s employers’
Colorado is a low tax state, with the eighth lowest state tax burden and the sixty best corporate tax climate in the U.S.
The full 48-page 2023 Free Enterprise Report is available at: https://commonsenseinstituteco.org/colorados-free-enterprise-report-2023-edition/