Funding fails to reach Colorado universities
When Colorado voters approved Referendum C in 2005, the expectation was that Colorado universities like CU would begin receiving more state funding.
Critics, however, are saying that state colleges have not been provided with the promised 33.3 percent of Referendum C surplus.
“I have a major problem when the government hoards money after they’ve said they’re going to do something with it,” said Alexandra Varone, a freshman studio arts major.
Supporters of the referendum hailed it as an opportunity for a “timeout” from restrictions imposed on state spending by TABOR.
Relief from these restrictions was designed to allow the state of Colorado to use taxpayer money for K-12 education, health care and state colleges.
According to the 2005 Blue Book, Referendum C would “permit the state to spend the money it collects over its limit for the next five years on health care, public education, transportation projects and local fire and police pensions.”
Critics such as Amy Oliver, director of operations for the Independence Institute, claim that the surplus provided by Referendum C is not being spent as originally intended.
In a recent commentary published in the Denver Post, Oliver argued that lawmakers cut higher education funding from existing sources, then replaced those funds with money from Referendum C.
“In some instances, education and health care actually received less money immediately after Referendum C passed,” Oliver wrote.
The lack of funding provides a major setback for Colorado universities, which rank among the bottom 10 states for higher education funding, according to the 2005 Blue Book.
Even though the referendum directs that higher education receive additional state funding, in reality Referendum C surplus money is spent elsewhere before trickling down to universities.
According to a June 2007 Colorado Legislative Council report, the first $55 million of Referendum C surplus is to be spent on allowed areas such as fire and police departments, transportation projects, K-12 schools and health care.
Universities like CU are allocated funding only after the initial $55 million has been spent.
As of June 2007, $353.7 million had been allocated for higher education through the College Opportunity Fund payment.
The six percent Arveschoug-Bird limit is part of the reason that higher education has not been receiving all of the promised funding.
The limit prohibits General Fund appropriations growth of greater than six percent in any given year, according to the Colorado Legislative Council report.
Regardless of how much additional money is provided through Referendum C, any money above the six percent limit automatically goes toward other state spending areas such as transportation and state capital construction projects.
“I think that having money from Referendum C go toward universities is a great idea, and as a college student myself, I especially think that it is important,” Varone said. “But if that money is not being spent as promised, I would like to have it back in my pocket.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Katherine Spencer at Katherine.email@example.com