Eric Galatas, Public News Service

DENVER — A coalition of 135 Colorado organizations is urging state lawmakers to use all tools in their toolbox to blunt the most serious economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lost revenues are projected to create a $3.3 billion budget shortfall, the largest in state history. Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement with the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said the anticipated cuts would be far greater than any made during the Great Recession.

“What that means is that there will be huge cuts to education, to health care services, to services for older adults, to everything that our state government pitches in for,” Fox said.

The coalition, which includes groups serving the state’s most vulnerable communities, is calling for federal relief, tapping the state’s emergency fund, and temporarily raising taxes on Coloradans earning more than $250,000 a year.

Fox noted that 95% of workers would see their tax bill go down under the proposal.

Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) limits the ways lawmakers can increase revenues, but Fox noted tax modifications can be made during a public health emergency. Fox said if there was ever a time to use the emergency tax provisions under the state’s constitution, it is now.

“To help the state deal with the COVID-19 virus, number one, but also ensure that we are as best positioned as possible to recover,” he said.

Since COVID-19 sent the economy into a deep dive, 420,000 Coloradans have filed for unemployment, and sales taxes and other revenue sources have all but dried up. The coalition is calling for the state’s Joint Budget Committee to advance the proposal. The measure would then need to be approved by two-thirds of the Colorado General Assembly.

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